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published by MERIDIAN BOOKS, INC. New York 


OF AMERICA Philadelphia 

Louis Ginzberg 

Louis Ginzberg, one of the foremost Talmudic scholars 
of this generation, was until his death in 1953 Professor 
of Talmud at The Jewish Theological Seminary of 
America. His numerous works include The Legends of 
the Jews, recently abridged and repubhshed as The 
Legends of the Bible. 

Meridian Books and Jewish Publication Society Edition 
First published April 1958 
First printing March 1958 
Second printing November 1960 

Reprinted by arrangement with The Jewish Publication 
Society of America 

Copyright 1928 by The Jewish Publication Society 
of America 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 58-8532 
Manufactured in the United States of America 

'HBO nV ian 


Asked to define the meaning of the term Shekinah, 
Rabbi Sherira Gaon, the famous head of the celebrated 
Academy of Pumbedita, Babylonia, wrote: "Know, 
that the Shekinah is to be found among the scholars of 
the Academy, it is the light of God abiding among 
them." Divested of its metaphorical expression, this 
remark of the great leader of Judaism in the second 
half of the tenth century contains a profound truth, 
that the spiritual and intellectual life of the Jews 
always had its center of gravity in the Talmud 
Academies, or Yeshibot. A knowledge of the life of the 
Yeshibah will therefore bring us closer to an under- 
standing of the history of the Jews in the last two 
thousand years. 

The lectures presented to the public in this volume, 
though delivered at long intervals and called forth by 
certain occasions, form a unified collection. They all 
have the same purpose, to give the reader some in- 
sight into the cultural life of the Jew, by making him 
acquainted with the bearers of this culture. It was in 
the Talmud Academies that the spiritual life of the 
people pulsated, and hence a closer acquaintance with 
the ideas and ideals of the talmudic scholar will lead 
to a better knowledge of that life. 

The talmudic scholar is the normal type of Jew by 
which Rabbinic Judaism is to be judged, though, it is 



true, the normal Jew must not be confounded with the 
average one. The average Jew was not a talmudic 
scholar, but the normal one was. The development, 
however, of the average to the normal is one of the 
most interesting features of the history of the Jews. 
By the seventeenth century the average Jew, at least 
in Eastern Europe, was a talmudic scholar. 

Since the loss of political independence Jewish 
public life found its main outlet in educational 
activity and the talmudic scholar was the cultural 
ideal. The first essay, 'The Jewish Primary School", 
attempts to sketch how this ideal dominated elemen- 
tary education. 

Scribes, Pharisees and similar names are often used 
as devices for saving one the trouble of studying the 
lives of those so designated. The unbiased reader of 
the second, third and fourth essays, 'The Disci pie of the 
the Pharisee/' will have no difficulty in distinguishing 
the true picture of the Pharisee from his caricature. 

The main study of the Talmudist centered in the 
Halakah, and accordingly I have placed at the end of 
the first part of this group of lectures the one on 
"Jewish Thought as Reflected in the Halakah." I 
hope that I have not entirely failed in my attempt 
at showing the permanent importance of the Halakah 
for an adequate understanding of Judaism. 

The second part of the volume, consisting of six 
biographical sketches of modern Talmudists, stands 
in close relation to the first part. I have often been 
struck by the very strange phenomenon that the 


historians who are immensely interested in the history 
of the Jew of two thousand years ago or more are 
entirely indifferent towards the later development of 
the Jewish people. And yet it is only that period of 
history which is nearest to us that we can claim to 
know with some measure of certainty. 

It has been well said, that the first duty of the 
historian is to forget his own time and country and 
become the sympathetic and interested contemporary 
of the things and events he treats. But if it be very 
difficult for a modern man to transform himself into a 
monk or a rabbi of the twelfth century, it is well- 
nigh impossible for one of today to penetrate into the 
soul of a Pharisee of two thousand years ago. The 
approach we have to the understanding of a person- 
ality like Hillel or R. Johanan ben Zakkai is not 
through Philo or Paul, that would be an attempt to 
explain that which is unknown by that which is 
equally unknown, but through men like R. Elijah 
Wilna or R. Israel Salanter. These great Talmudists 
and Saints of modern times well known to us, show 
how the devotion to the Torah and the extreme 
rigoiism in the observance of its precepts, far from 
developing a legalistic and external piety, were the 
main motives in producing holy men, whose lives were 
a protracted service of God. 

The sixth and seventh essays, "The Gaon, R. Elijah 
Wilna," and "R. Israel Salanter" will prove, I trust, 
to be helpful not only to an understanding of the 
Judaism of their own times, but also toward that of 
the early Rabbis. 


The vitality of an organism is shown in its power 
of adaptation. Judaism in modern times, especially in 
Middle and Western Europe, was confronted with 
the almost insurmountable difficulty of adapting it- 
self to modern thought. The task that Judaism had 
to solve was by far more difficult than that of any 
other religious system. Judaism passed from the 
fifteenth century into the nineteenth, and this could 
not take place without a formidable shock. That it 
withstood this shock is the best proof of the power 
and energy inherent in Judaism. 

The eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh essays, 
Zechariah Frankel, Isaac Hirsch Weiss, Solomon 
Schechterand David Hoffmann, sketch the activities 
of these great men, who at critical moments in Jewish 
history understood how to combine harmoniously the 
old with the new. 

The biographical essays were written on particular 
occasions, the death of one or the anniversary of the 
birth or death of another. These consist chiefly of 
praise, but I was glad of the chance to praise great 
men. It is not always a sign of superior critical 
judgment to exercise moderation in praise. 

The notes at *he end of the volume contain the 
authorities used for the various essays as well as 
biographical and bibliographical notices. I trust that 
not only the general reader but also the student will 
find the notes, at least some of them, useful. 

The title "Students, Scholars and Saints/' which I 
have chosen for the volume, is indicative of the mes- 


sage it attempts to convey. It is a plea for the better 
appreciation of Talmudic Judaism and a closer con- 
nection between the past and the present* 

NEW YORK, March 30, 1928. 















Norfs 263 

INDEX 283 


The development of the intellect is the development 
of man, says Auguste Comte, one of the profoundest 
thinkers of modern times. He does not fail to recognize 
the momentous influence exerted by factors other than 
mind in the evolution of society, but he wished to 
emphasize this point, that whether a single nation is to 
be appraised or an epoch in the history of mankind as a 
whole, it is in every case intellectual attainment by 
which the degree of development must be gauged. In 
point of fact, it is, as Comte says, "the heart that 
propounds all questions, to solve them is the part of 
the intellect " An old Palestinian saying quoted in the 
Talmud 1 puts the same idea in empiric form: "He who 
has knowledge, has every thing, he who lacks knowledge, 
lacks everything." And this proverb m turn is an 
epigrammatic summing up of the biblical notion of the 
Hakam, "the wise," "the knowing one," who is at the 
same time the good and pious man, the just, the God- 
fearing, the truthful, and the pure. 

Because writers take too little account of this 
general historical principle set up by Comte and at the 
same time are blind to the peculiarity of Jewish history 
in particular, a misunderstanding has arisen regarding 
the nature of the transition from the Prophets to the 
Scribes, from biblical Judaism to rabbinical Judaism. 


The intellectual endeavors of the Scribes are apt to be 
considered as a degeneration and decline from the 
idealism which pervades the conception of life laid 
down in the Scriptures. The truth is that the Scribes 
succeeded where the Prophets had failed. Through 
them the teachings proclaimed in the schools of the 
Prophets became the common property of the whole 

The eradication of paganism, against which the 
prophets fought in vain, among the Jews, together 
with the immorality that accompanied it, is essentially 
the achievement of the first great Scribe, Ezra, and 
of his associates. And again, if three centuries after 
Ezra the defeat of degenerate Hellenism by the 
Maccabees was a possibility, it was only because the 
Scribes, by their constant devotion, had inspired a 
whole nation with the lofty ideals of the Torah and 
the Prophets. 

In spite of the many vicissitudes to which the Jewish 
people has been subjected during nearly twenty 
centuries of dispersion, its intellectual development 
has suffered no interruption. Under the leadership of 
the Scribes, the masses of the people were ready to 
defend the prophetic ideals at every cost and hazard 
the same people that had assumed an indifferent, if not 
a hostile, attitude toward the living words of the 
Prophets. It must be confessed that the victory of the 
intellect was not gained at a single blow. The 'Am 
ha-Arez 2 continued to be a common figure in Jewish 
life even at the time when the Talmudist stood at his 
zenith. Theoretically the 'Am ha-Arez submitted him- 


self entirely to the teachings of the rabbis. But in the 
ordinary course of his life he was little influenced by 
them ; sometimes he was even filled with deadly hatred 
for the exponents of Jewish learning. The deep venera- 
tion shown the scholar among the Jews of the Middle 
Ages and the extraordinary respect felt for the educated 
man were phenomena that co-existed and were bound 
up with a wider spread of knowledge among all classes 
and with a deepening of religious feeling throughout 
all the strata of the people. The last link in this long 
chain of Jewish intellectual development is the Lamdan* 
as the dominant figure in Jewish life, especially with 
the Ashkenazim, and among the Ashkenazim especially 
in Eastern Europe. 

The historical process just described comes out well 
in the popular sayings of various epochs To this day 
many a Jewish woman in Poland and Lithuania soothes 
her child with the lullaby 4 

What is the best Sehorah^ 

My baby will learn Torah 

Sefonm he will write for me, 

And a pious Jew he'll always be. 
In talmudic times words of an entirely different 
tenor were likely to fall upon the ear of a Jewish child. 
"O that I had a scholar in my power, how I'd bite 
him," 5 were the words often uttered by the lower 
classes in the early days of the Rabbis. And if we go 
further back in history, to biblical times, we find the 
popular characterization of the spiritual leader ex- 
pressed in such harsh words as "The prophet is a fool, 
the man that hath a spirit is mad." These extreme 


epochs of Jewish development lie worlds apart. But 
even two adjoining periods, the modern and the 
mediaeval, display a striking contrast. It is a far cry 
from the time in which the Jewish scholar was a 
merchant or an artisan to the time in which the Jewish 
merchant or artisan was a scholar. In the Middle Ages 
there was no learned estate among the Jews, because 
the number of scholars was not large enough to con- 
stitute a separate class. In Poland and Lithuania 
later on, when they became the centers of Jewish 
culture, there was again no learned estate because the 
people itself was a nation of students Every Jew was 
either a teacher or a pupil, or both at the same time. 
The Lamdan did not belong to a distinct class, 
he was the representative par excellence of the j>eople 
as a whole. 

The many centuries lying between the Prophet and 
the Lamdan are marked 1>\ two apparently incongruous 
phenomena. The suffering of the Jews was indescrib- 
able, yet their intellectual development proceeded 
apace without interruption. They are the enigma of 
history, contradicting by their existence the principle 
mens sana in cor pore sano, true of nations as well as 
individuals. Their enslavement by the Persians, the 
tyrannous oppression of the (ireek rulers, the cruelty 
of the Romans and, finally, the persecutions set afoot 
by Holy Mother Church, who was so concerned about 
the salvation of the soul of the Jew that she was ever 
ready to purchase it with his Ixxly such conditions 
make one exclaim in wonderment, not at the survival 
of the Jew, but at his survival unstunted. 


Our sages clothed the solution of the riddle in the 
form peculiar to them. Once upon a time, they say, 
the heathen philosopher, Oenomaos of Gadara, was 
asked, "How can we make away with this people ?" 
His answer was: "Go about and observe their schools 
and academies. So long as the clear voices of children 
ring forth from them, you will not be able to touch a 
hair of their head. For thus have the Jews been 
promised by the father of their race' 'The voice is the 
voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.' 
While the voice of Jacob resounds in the schools and 
the academies, the hands of Esau have no power 
over him " 6 

We have here more than a suggestive interpretation 
of a Bible text. It is a subtle comment on an historic 
fact. The school is the most original institution created 
by post -biblical Judaism a magnificent institution, a 
veritable fortress unshaken by the storms of the ages. 
To borrow a simile from the Midrash, the school was 
t he hear t that kept watch while the other organs slept. 
Ideals pass into great historical forces by embodying 
themseKes into institutions, and the Jewish ideal of 
knowledge became a great historical force by embody- 
ing itself in the Jewish school. 

1 ike the beginning of all genuine life, the beginning 
of the Jewish school is lost in the mist of ancient days. 
Theie can be no doubt, however, that the higher 
school for adults, the Bet ha-Midrash, or house of 
study, is of earlier origin than the Bet ha-Sefer, the 
elementary school. The Bet ha-Midrash was the 
sphere in which the Sofenm, the Scribes, displayed 


their activity. They were the guardians of literature 
and culture, who made the Alidrash, the interpretation 
of the Scripture, their special care and object, and 
hence their name, Sofenm, "Men of the Book." For 
it must be borne in mind that the trend of the times 
was toward religion. Literary interest was determined 
by the sacred traditions. To the Sofenm, however, 
was entrusted not only the higher education of young 
and old, but also the dispensation of justice and the 
leadership of the community in short, the guidance 
of the entire spiritual and intellectual hie of the people. 
Nothing perhaps better illustrates the position of the 
Scribe than the following lines of Ben Sira, who lived 
at the time when the Sofenm had reac hed their zenith 
Ben Sira's description of the Scribes read 4 - 7 

Not so he that appheth himself to the fear of God, 

And to set his mind upon the Lau of tin Mo->t High, 
Who searcheth out the wisdom of all the ancients, 

And is occupied with the prophets of old, 
Who heedeth the discourses of men of renown, 

And entereth into the deep things of parables, 
Searcheth out the hidden meaning of pm\(rl>s, 

And is conversant with the dark sa\m<s of parables, 
Who serveth among great men, 

And appeareth before princes, 
Who travelleth through the lands of the peoples, 

Testeth good and evil among men, 
Who is careful to seek unto his Maker, 

And before the Most High entreateth mercy, 
Who openeth his mouth in prayr, 

And maketh supplication for his bin 4 * 
If it seem good to God Most High, 

He shall be filled with the spirit of understanding 


He himself poureth forth wise sayings in double measure, 

And giveth thanks unto the Lord m prayer. 
He himself directeth counsel and knowledge, 

And setteth his mind on their secrets. 
He himself declareth wise instruction, 

And gloneth in the law of the Lord 
His understanding many do praise, 

And never shall his name be blotted out: 
His memory shall not cease, 

And his name shall live from generation to generation 
His uisdom doth the congregation tell forth, 

And his praise the assembly pubhsheth 
If he live long, he shall be accounted happy more than a thousand; 

And \vhen he cometh to an end, his name sufficeth 

The wisdom of the Scribe is culture, and Jewish 
culture is pnmanly religious. The Scribe was not a 
hermit, "He serveth among great men and appeareth 
before princes," yet his "Mind was set upon the Law 
of the Most High " Though the exponent of culture, 
he "Openeth his mouth in prayer and maketh sup- 
plication for his sins." 

By the side of the Scferim were the Hakamim, "the 
sages," in their Yeshibot, their conventicles. Their 
knowledge was based on experience and practical 
observation. It was secular rather than religious. The 
distinction between the two classes soon disappeared 
as they were merged into one, that of the scholars, who 
were now called the Hakamim. That happened when 
the study of the Torah was enlarged to include every 
department of human intellectual endeavor. By the 
time of the Hasmoneans, Hakamim had become the 
accepted designation of the masters in the knowledge 
of the Torah, the legitimate leaders of the people. 8 


It was characteristic of the time of the Men of the 
Great Assembly, a favored name for the leaders of the 
early Soferim in rabbinic sources, that they urged the 
duty of "raising up many disciples." Once this idea of 
higher education had taken root and the system of 
higher schools had spread as a network over the whole 
country, the next step could be taken, namely the 
consideration of the problem of elementary instruction. 
A well-authenticated talmudic tradition has this to 
say upon the subject "In the ancient days ever\ 
father taught his own son. The fatherless boy (and, it 
should be added, the child of an ignorant father) was 
given no instruction. Later, schools were erected in 
Jerusalem, where the boys were sent from all over the 
country. But these were inadequate. The fatherless 
were still left without teaching. Thereupon schools 
were opened in the largest town of every district, to 
which youths of sixteen or seventeen, who could do 
without the care of their parents, were sent. But it was 
soon apparent that school discipline had no effect upon 
*young men who had come in as adolescents. Then, 
finally, schools were instituted in every city and town 
for children of six or seven " 9 

The large, bold strokes in this outline sketch of the 
history of Jewish education mark out the progress 
made during a period of t\\o centuries, roughly speak- 
ing, from the time of the Soferim (about three hundred 
before the common era) to the time of the Pharisees 
(about one hundred before the common era). It is a 
highly significant fact that the man who deserves the 
title "Father of the Jewish School," was a great leader 


of the Pharisee party, Simeon ben Shatah (about 
seventy A. C. E.). Of the results achieved by the work 
inaugurated by Simeon, we can gain a good idea from 
Josephus, who proudly points them out to the Greeks 
one hundred and fifty years later. "Our principal care 
of all is this," he says, "to educate our children well/' 
"and if anybody do but ask any one of them 
(the Jews) about our laws, he will more readily tell 
them all than he will tell his own name, and this is in 
consequence of our having learned them immediately, 
as soon as ever we become sensible of any thing, and of 
our having them, as it were, engraven on our souls/' 10 

It cannot be denied that the ratio of rhetoric to 
truth in Josephus' writings is sometimes very high. 
Yet, after his statements are stripped of exaggerations, 
there still remains a residuum of facts sufficient to 
certify to the important place assigned to elementary 
education in his day. However, we must not fail to 
take into account that Josephus was conversant chiefly 
with conditions as they existed among the dwellers in 
cities. The country folk, constituting perhaps the 
majority of the Jewish people at that time, were still 
debarred from the blessings of education. 

The catastrophes that overwhelmed the Jewish 
nation in the year seventy and in the year one hundred 
and thirty-three, and reduced flourishing cities and 
populous villages to rums, gave a set-back to the cause 
of primary education. Accordingly, in the third century 
of the common era, the leading intellects among the 
Jews were constrained to devote their attention to the 
rehabilitation of elementary schools and teaching." 


Political and economic conditions went on growing 
worse for the Jews in Palestine. In spite of all the 
efforts put forth to promote and develop educational 
work, the Holy Land ceased to be the spiritual center 
of Judaism. It was replaced by Babylonia. There the 
work had to be started anew, for the Jews of the 
Persian empire occupied a very low intellectual plane, 
and generations passed by until the Palestinian spirit 
began to take root and flourish on the banks of the 
Euphrates. 12 And yet, comparatively speaking, it can- 
not be said that a long time elapsed before a Jewish 
culture had established itself in Bab\loma. The 
political and economic conditions of the Jews living 
there in the third century were very favorable. Under 
the Sassanids they formed an all but autonomous 
body. Influenced by great intellectual leaders, the 
exilarchs and the communal authorities fairly vied 
with each other in fostering and promoting Jewish 
studies and culture. Scholars were exempt from the 
poll tax, from communal tributes and similar imposts 
They were permitted to settle wheresoever they would, 
a great advantage to them if they engaged in business 
or trades, which as a rule were subjected to restrictions 
protecting residents against a much-feared competi- 
tion. 13 Education and knowledge in the course of time 
became actual marketable possessions, instead of being, 
as at first, ideal acquisitions the best standard by 
which to measure the degree of idealism prevailing in a 
nation. Where education and intellectual attainments 
are considered a material asset, idealism must be the 
attribute of large classes of the people. The natural 


features of the Babylonian country were another 
propitious factor. The earth there yielded its products 
without demanding more than a minimum of human 
labor. The poorest were in a position to devote several 
hours of daily leisure to study, and without a great- 
sacrifice they could forego the assistance of their minor 
children, who thus were permitted to enjoy a schooling 
of many years' duration. 14 

The wide spread of culture among the Babylonian 
Jews appears strikingly in the definition of the 'Am ha- 
Arez found in the Babylonian Talmud. They applied 
the harsh term to one who, though he had mastered the 
Bible and the Mishnah, had not penetrated more 
profoundly into Jewish lore. Contrast this with what 
the Palestinians called an ignoramus, and the vast 
progress made in two centuries, more or less, will be 
apparent. To the Palestinian, the man who could not 
recite the Shema was an ignoramus, one who knew the 
Bible, let alone the Mishnah, was if not a scholar, 
surely an educated man. 15 

In spite of the important place occupied by the 
school m the intellectual life of Babylonian Jewry, the 
material dealing with educational work and facilities 
preserved in the Talmud is so sparse that there is little 
hope of our ever being able to reconstruct the educa- 
tional edifice of the time with any degree of complete- 
ness. But there is more than enough to warrant the 
general impression that the school went on increasing 
in influence under the Babylonian Jews, and the later 
development of the Jewish educational system in all 


the lands of the Dispersion is directly traceable to 
these vigorous Babylonian beginnings. 

Unfortunately, the talmudic time is not the only 
period in Jewish educational history of which we are 
ignorant. We are in no better position to attempt a 
presentation of educational conditions among the Jews 
in a time much nearer our own, namely the Middle 
Ages which, to quote Zunz, extended for the Jews to 
very recent times. At most we might venture to deal 
with the higher institutions of learning For the 
primary schools our information is too meager by far. 
Our reports do not become full and detailed enough to 
justify an attempt at description until we reach the 
elementary school of the so-called Polish Jews, the 
word Polish being here used as a generic term for 
Slavic countries and Lithuania We must, therefore, 
limit ourselves to an attempt at gaining some glimpses 
of the intellectual and spiritual life nursed and devel- 
oped in the elementary schools of the Polish Jews 

Jews had been li\mg in Poland for centuries before 
anything was heard of them, certainly before anything 
was heard about their intellectual life l6 The persecu- 
tions of the Jews in Germany that extended in un- 
broken sequence from the First Crusade to the Age of 
the Reformation cast large numl>ers of them into 
Poland, whither they carried their talmudic learning 
and piety; for it must not be forgotten that there was 
a time when the Jews of Germany excelled all others in 
strength of faith and rigorous observance of the Torah 
In these times of the almost superhuman suffering of the 
German Jew, we meet with his long-enduring march to 


the East of Europe, especially to Poland, the country 
which, according to a well-known Latin saying 17 , is 
"the heaven of the nobleman, the purgatory of the 
citizen, the hell of the peasant, and the paradise of the 
Jew" such a paradise as the Christian love of those 
days was likely to concede to him. We may be sure 
that the narrow-minded town guilds and the fanatical 
clergy took care not to rob the Jew of his hope of a real 
Paradise. The economic conditions were far from 
brilliant even in the sixteenth century, when Polish 
Jewish prosperity was at its height. In the middle of 
that century, Rabbi Mo^es Isserles wrote to a friend 
in Germany "Thou hadst been better off in Poland, 
if only on dry bread, but that at least without anxiety 
of mind 18 ." Of nch Jews, like Simeon Gunzburg 19 in 
Germany, for instance, there were none in Poland. But 
that is not altogether regrettable. The salvation of the 
Jews was never wrought by the rich among them. 
What gave Poland its pre-eminence was the circum- 
stance that it offered means of subsistence, however 
wretched, to the middle class, by permitting the Jews 
to enter many branches of business, while in the rest of 
Europe they were confined to petty trading and 

Such economic conditions sufficed to give an impetus 
toward a new Jewish culture, and with an external 
impulse supcradded it resulted in an irresistible move- 
ment. The outer force that came to aid the inner was 
the invention of printing, which made knowledge a 
common possession of the people. The first notable 
Jewish scholar in Poland of whom we hear, lived and 


worked at the end of the fifteenth century 20 . Scarcely 
a generation after the pioneers, the Jews of Poland had 
leapt into the forefront of Jewish learning, a sovereign 
position from which they have not yet been dislodged. 
The significant fact is that the publication of the first 
editions of the two Talmudim and of other classical 
works of Jewish literature fell in the interval that 
elapsed between the time when Poland had but one 
scholar of eminence, Rabbi Jacob Pollak, and the time 
when it produced Rabbi Solomon Loria, the most 
eminent Talmudist of his day 21 . 

Hand in hand with the development of the higher 
education went the education of the Jewish child, 
which began at home before he was sent to school, 
quite in agreement with the principle of one of the 
greatest educators of modern times, who holds that 
education is the concern of the famih , from the family 
it proceeds, and to the family for the most part it 
returns. Of Jewish pedagogy the characteristic feature 
was that the three chief ends of education were sub- 
served as a unity at one and the same time. The 
earliest instruction kept in \ lew at once the intellectual, 
the moral, and the religious training of the child. As 
soon as he was able to speak, he uas taught Hebrew 
words and sentences, bringing into play his memory 
and his perceptive faculties, and the sentences were 
always of religious bearing. They were mainly Berakot, 
blessings, especially those that form part of the morn- 
ing and evening prayers and of the grace after meals 
"Blessed lie the All-Merciful, the Lord of bread, 
blessed be He, who giveth food to all beings," is to-day, 


as it was four hundred years ago, the form of grace 
used by the Jewish children in Poland." The morning 
devotion consisted of two biblical verses: "Hear, O 
Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One/' and 
"Moses commanded us the Torah as the inheritance of 
the congregation of Jacob", to which the rhymed 
couplet was added : "To the Torah I shall ever faithful 
be; For this may God Almighty grant His help to me. 7 * 
As the child rose from bed with the Shema* upon his 
lips, so he went to bed proclaiming his belief in the 
One God. To the recital of the Shema* before retiring 
was added the following verse from Psalm thirty-one. 
"Into Thine hand I commend my spirit; Thou hast 
redeemed me, O Lord, Thou God of Truth/* 

A child of three or four years cannot be expected to 
understand the import of pra>ers, even when couched 
in the vernacular. Religious feeling comes into play 
much later in life. It was an advantage from this 
point of view that the prayers were put into Hebrew, a 
language removed from daily concerns. In this some- 
what strange guise they appeal to the intellect of the 
child as well as to his fancy. The alien garb makes 
them sink into the child's mind as a concrete, almost 
tangible entity, a vessel to be retained until the proper 
content comes to hand to be poured into it. The 
language of familiar intercourse is too fluid to fulfil 
this pedagogic purpose. For the same reason He- 
brew was used for the civil speeches of polite society 
first impressed upon a child. Berukim ha-Yoshebim, 
"Blessed be ye who are present here," was the greeting 
extended by a child entering a room in which the 


company was seated at the table, and on leaving he 
was expected to say, Bireshutekem, "with your per- 
mission. " 23 

The ceremonials of the Jewish religion early caught 
the fancy of the impressionable child, and kept him 
fascinated. Having outgrown his baby clothes, the 
little fellow was given the "prayer-square," the Arba- 
Kanfot, as part of his first boy's suit. With two such 
tangible reminders he was in no danger of forgetting 
his double dignity as a lord of creation and a son of the 
chosen people. "Shaking" the Lulab on Sukkot, wav- 
ing little flags on Simhat Torah, filching the Afikomcn 
from the Seder table, and, last but not least, the 
consumption of delicate butter cookies on Shebuot 
these and many others of the lighter ceremonial acts 
and customs prepared the child admirably for the 
more serious instruction in the Heder, which was 
begun when he was five years old. 

The Heder! In the face of the misunderstandings 
with which friend and foe alike have treated it in 
modern times, it is difficult to speak calmly of this, 
one of the greatest institutions of post -biblical Judaism. 
Surely a defense is out of place when applied to a 
system still in use now, though its beginnings are lost 
in the obscurity of the days when Rome was a tiny 
Italian republic and Alexandria not yet founded. It is 
also obvious that a creation of the epoch of the Scribes 
in Palestine could not persist unchanged in Spain in 
the heyday of Greek-Arabic culture, and to expect the 
New York of the twentieth century to accept without 
change the Lublin Heder of the sixteenth would be as 


irrational as to judge the Polish Heder at its best by 
the form and constitution it has adopted in our day. 
It is one thing to judge a system or institution in its 
corruption and quite another thing to measure the 
worth and true design of its first founders. All educa- 
tional institutions must die which do not directly and 
conspicuously promote either the spiritual or material 
interests of men. Without an inspiring idea and aim, 
an institution is dying, if not dead, though to the eye 
of sense it may seem still to live. Evolution is not the 
only factor that enters into an estimate of historical 
development. Degeneration is an equally important 
aspect, especially with a people like the Jews, whose 
fortunes have often been forced into unnatural channels 
by the violent hands of an un&> mpathetic world. All 
human works are exposed to vicissitude and decay, 
and the Heder in the lapse of more than two thousand 
years has furnished many an instance of that general 

The Heder in Poland at the period in which Jewish 
culture was at its height was neither a public nor a 
private school. It was an institution supervised by the 
communal authorities, but managed in detail by private 
individuals. The choice of the teacher lay with the 
parents, and the teacher was at liberty to accept and 
reject pupils as he saw fit, but the community reserved 
the right to pass upon the number of pupils, the 
curriculum, the schedule, and other particulars regard- 
ing the plan of instruction. The school regulations in 
force in the Jewish community of Cracow in 1551, the 
oldest of their kind known, contain various points of 


interest 24 . A teacher of elementary pupils was not 
permitted to have more than forty children in his class, 
and a teacher of Talmud not more than twenty, and 
for these numbers each of them was required to employ 
two assistants. 

A generation later, the same community adopted 
rules fixing the salary of the teachers, because, it is 
said, "their demands are so exorbitant that many are 
not able to satisfy them 2 " 5 " To understand this, it 
must be borne in mind that though the community 
maintained a free school, the Talmud Torah, parents 
availed themselves of it only in extreme cases of 
poverty. "Though you have to serin e the means by 
begging, be sure to provide for the instruction of your 
sons and daughters in the Torah," is a dying father's 
admonition to his children in his last will and testa- 
ment dated 1357 26 . The poorest of the poor sent their 
children to the free Talmud Toiah, the average poor 
denied themselves food and raiment and paid for the 
schooling of their boys and girls. This explains why 
communal ordinances as well as decisions by eminent 
rabbis concern themselves with the times when tuition 
fees fell due. Rabbi Solomon Lona decides that half 
the stipulated remuneration must l>e paid the teacher 
in advance, to enable him to maintain his establish- 
ment decently 27 . In spite of the authority of Lona, his 
view does not seem to have prevailed, for the teachers, 
it appears, were paid at the end of the month 28 . By 
this arrangement the New Moon Day was a holiday, 
not only for the pupils, who were not requited to 
return to the Heder for the afternoon session, but also 


for the teachers who, in addition to their salaries, 
would sometimes receive "Rosh Hodesh money," a 
small free-will offering, from their patrons. 29 To pre- 
vent sordid competition among teachers, which might 
have left some of them without school and pupils at 
the end of a month, it was strictly prohibited to change 
teachers during the term, and teachers, on the other 
hand, were not permitted to go about seeking patron- 
age between terms. Parents were expected to decide 
upon their future action regarding the placing of their 
children uninfluenced by those financially interested 
in their decision 3 

The child's first day at Heder may be said to have 
been the most impressive one in his life, and the 
ceremonies introducing the boy to school are very 
significant of the Jewish attitude toward education in 
general and religious education in particular. 

On Pentecost, the feast commemorative of the giv- 
ing of the Torah on Sinai, the boy of five began his 
career at school. Neatly attired, he was put in the care 
of a member of the community distinguished for piety 
and scholarship, with whom he went to the synagogue 
at break of day. There he was met by the teacher, who 
took him in his charge and began to instruct him. He 
was handed a slate on which the Hebrew alphabet was 
written forward and backward, and, besides, the fol- 
lowing three \erses* "The law commanded us by 
Moses is the inheritance of the Congregation of Jacob", 
"And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him 
out of the tent of meeting, saying," and "May the 
Torah be my daily calling, and God Almighty my 


helper/' the last from the prayers for children. The 
first lesson consisted in making the pupil repeat the 
names of the letters after the teacher. The slate was 
smeared with honey, which the child licked from the 
letters, to taste the sweetness of the Torah, as it were. 
Then the boy was given a cake baked by the innocent 
hands of a virgin, on which several verses from the 
Prophets and Psalms were traced: "And He said unto 
me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy 
bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat 
it, and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness," 
" The Lord God hath given me the tongue of them that 
are taught, that I should know how to sustain 
with words him that is wear\ ; He wakeneth morning 
b\ morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as they that 
are taught. The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and 
I was not rebellious, neither turned away backward." 
Moreover the cake bore eight verses from Psalm one 
hundred and nineteen, all of them proclaiming the 
praise of the Torah. The following verses were in- 
scribed on an egg: "From all my teachers ha\e I 
learned wisdom" and "How sweet are Thy words unto 
my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" 
All these verses on the cake and on the egg the teacher 
read and the young neophyte pronounced them after 
him, and at the end of the lesson the boy was given 
the cake and the egg, and apples and other fruit besides. 
Then he was taken on a walk along the banks of a 
stream, because the Torah is likened unto water "As 
water rests not in elevated places, but flows downward 
and gathers in the lowlands, so the Torah resides only 


with the humble and modest, not with the proud and 

The final ceremonies took place in the house of the 
parents of the boy. In his honor they prepared a 
banquet, at which he was greeted by the assembled 
guests with the words: "May God enlighten thine eyes 
with HisTorah 31 ." 

Peculiar as these customs may seem, they reveal 
clearly what the ideals were that filled the mind of the 
father at the moment of devoting his son to the service 
of the Lord. It was not the yoke of the law that he 
sought to impose upon the lad. He endeavored to 
inspire him with the conviction that the Law of God 
is lovely, so that when he attained to discretion, he 
would keep it and observe it with all his heart. Primary 
instruction was therefore arranged with a view to 
caving the child a knowledge of the Hebrew text of the 
Bible and of the prayers, together with their transla- 
tion into the vernacular. The Bible itself was put 
into the hands of the Jewish child, and it was the 
Bible that shaped and moulded his heart and mind. 

Hebiew reading was the earliest subject in the 
course of study in the Heder. The alphabet was put 
on large charts, first in the usual order, from Alef to 
Taw, and again in the reverse order, from Taw to 
Alef , then with vowels and again without vowels. The 
charts contained also a few Bible verses. To enliven 
the drudgery of alphabet learning, the children were 
taught not merely the names of the letters, but also 
the meaning of the names, of their form, and their 
position, a method not unlike that of the modern 


picture book. This practical way of teaching appealed 
both to the fancy and the intellect. Alef-Bet the 
child was told means, "learn wisdom" (the Hebrew 
for learn is Alef and Bet reminds one of Binah "wis- 
dom") ; Gimel-Dalet, "be kind" (Gomel in Hebrew to 
be kind) "to the poor" (Dal). In a similar manner 
the forms of the letters were made to live in the fancy 
of the child. The foot of the Gimel, he was taught, is 
turned in the direction of the following letter, Dalet , to 
remind us that one should be kind-hearted and look for 
the needy to render them assistance. The Tet has its 
head hidden tinned inside and a crown thereon so 
that we may know that the charitable hand must not 
be seen if we aspire to receive the crown of glory from 
God for our kind actions. The Shin has three branches 
but no root to indicate that falsehood -in Hebrew 
Shcker, the initial letter of which is Shinnever takes 
root. One leg of the Taw is broken to teach us that he 
who desires to de\ote himself to the study of the 
Torah which word begins with a Taw -must be 
ready to ha\ e his feet bruised by his wandei m^s to the 
houses of stud> . And final! \ , as the leg of this letter is 
bent, so must the student of the Toiah bend his 
pride 32 . Other explanations of the alphabet ami to 
make the child remember the sounds "Tell the 
child," says an author of the sixteenth century 51 , "that 
the Bet has its mouth open, and the Pe mouth in 
Hebrew has its mouth closed " The pedagogue thus 
conveyed to the learner not only the difference in the 
appearance of these two letters, but also the difference 
in the position of the lips in pronouncing them, and to 


this day the Kamez, the long a, is described in the 
Heder as the Patah with a beard. 

The next step was to the prayer-book, which became 
the text-book for reading as soon as the boy was able 
to put letters together into words. As it was a cherished 
purpose to have the child say the prayers by himself as 
soon as possible, no attention was paid to their mean- 
ing, until he could read them fluently, on the principle 
that a child was first to be religiously active, and 
religious thinking would follow as his intelligence 
developed with > ears. Moreover, the prayers not being 
composed in the classical Hebrew, it was thought 
advisable to defer effective instruction in the Hebrew 
language until the study of the Bible could be begun. 
The third Book of Moses was chosen as the first 
subject of instruction in the Bible the principle here 
being, the law of Israel before the history of Israel. 34 
After a part of I e\ iticus had been taken, the instructor 
devoted himself to teaching as much of each week's 
Pentateuch portion as the pupil's time and capacity 
permitted The disadvantage of this practice was that 
the beginner, unable to manage the whole portion, 
acquired the Pentateuch in fragments. On the other 
hand, it must be remembered that to teach Hebrew 
grammar was at this stage as little the intention as to 
convey the historical content of the Scriptures or their 
theological interpretation. The aim for the moment 
was to enable the learner to acquire an extensive He- 
brew vocabulary. With only this in view, it was not 
long before a boy of even average ability could easily 
be made to go through the week's portion in season. 


A clear notion of the methods of Bible instruction in 
vogue in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries may 
be gained from two works entitled, Baer (or Beer) 
Mosheh, and Lekah Tob, composed by Rabbi Moses 
Saertels, and printed at Prague in 1604-5. The author 
himself tells us that it was his purpose to perpetuate 
in print the traditional translation and explanation of 
the Bible. This being the case, it does not astonish us 
to find the regulations of the Jewish community of 
Cracow 55 making it obligatory upon teachers to use 
Rabbi Moses Saertels* books. From a comparison with 
the Bible Commentary by Rashi it appears that they 
depend upon it throughout. Virtually they are an 
introduction to Rashi, whose Commentary was the 
text-book given to the pupil after he had mastered a 
part of the Bible. 

Another subject in the primary classes of the Heder 
was writing, both the square characters and the script, 
the latter, the so-called Juedisch-Deutsch, being used 
in correspondence. If we mention, besides, anthmetic 
from addition to division, and the outlines of Hebrew 
etymology, we have exhausted the curriculum of the 
primary Heder or, as the Jewish expression goes, the 
work of the Melamed Dardake, the primary teacher. 

At the age of about ten the l>oy passed from the 
primary Heder to its higher division, the Talmud 
Heder, in which all subjects of study gave way to the 
Talmud, and henceforth he devoted himself to it 
exclusively. The Melamed Dardake surrendered him 
to the Talmud teacher, and in his charge he remained 


until he was able to enter the Yesh^bah, the talmudic 
high school. 

Different as the course of studies and the method of 
teaching were in the Heder from those in the modern 
school, the two institutions depart still further from 
each other in the life their respective pupils led and 
still lead. Life in the Heder was arranged with more 
than due regard for individuality. Not only was the 
Heder, as we have seen, a private institution in which 
the parents were given the opportunity of choosing the 
teacher with a view to their children's needs and gifts, 
but the teaching also was personal in character. Re- 
stricted as the number of pupils was, they were never- 
theless di\ ided into Kitot, sections 36 The teacher usu- 
alh occupied himself with no more than four children 
at a time. In this way a close personal relation could 
grow up between master and pupil. It was practically 
impossible to deceive a teacher by palming off work on 
him done by others at home. Instruction, especially in 
the Talmud, was discursive, and the cadence or, better, 
the sing-song, of a talmudic sentence sufficed to in- 
dicate whether or not the little Talmudist understood 
it The result was that in many cases the teacher came 
to take a vital personal interest in the pupils. With 
pleasure and pride he would observe the progress of 
his boys, and no greater joy could come to him than to 
be caught napping by one of them who urged a difficult 
objection to some talmudic statement, which the 
teacher was not prepared to answer on the spot. As the 
whole system purposed the training of the intellect, a 
"good scholar" in the Heder meant only a mentally 


well-endowed pupil. Qualities other than intellectual 
did not count. "A mischievous boy has a good head" 
is the Jewish way of saying that a bright boy is privi- 
leged to indulge in pranks in the Heder. 

As a rule the teachers were mild enough in meting 
out punishment. Some of their gentleness may perhaps 
be set to the account of self-interest. They may have 
feared to lose paying pupils through over-great severity. 
One of the teachers describes the dilemma in which he 
and his confreres were often placed, in the following 
graphic words: "When a teacher flogs one of his 
pupils, he bursts into tears, goes home to his father, 
and complains tearfully. The father gets angry, and 
the boy is encouraged to complain to his mother, too. 
She, in her affection for her son, incites the father 
against the teacher, who, she sa\s, has come within an 
ace of killing the boy, and she calls him a fool. Natu- 
rally, the father is wrought up against the teacher, and 
seeks to engage him in a quarrel, etc., etc J7 " 

The Melamed (teacher) was certainly more humane 
and gentle than most of the masters of the Knghsh 
schools, who till very recenth ruled as tyrants. We 
may be quite sure that he was not the brute pictured 
by the morbid imagination of certain Maskiltm, whose 
animus against the Heder is probably to be sought in a 
hatred of the deeply Jewish atmosphere that pre\ ailed 
there, and that too in spite of the lack of explicit 
religious instruction in the modem sense. The Heder 
would have refused to tolerate long-winded definitions 
of the being and existence of God, and the little Tal- 
mud pupil would not have suppressed his whence and 


his what, his Minna hanne Mille and his May ka 
mashma Ian. The Jewish martyrs and saints were not 
raised in the hot-house atmosphere of religion spread 
by the catechism, and it is hardly an accident that the 
desire for religious text-books did not manifest itself 
until Judaism was being forced into the four walls of 
the synagogue. Previous to that time Jewish literature, 
rich as it was, had no such book to show except a 
single one composed at the end of the sixteenth cen- 
tury, which is modelled after the catechism used by 
the Catholic clergy. The author of this book was said 
to ha\e become a convert to Christianity, which is not 
true, but it seems as if he laid himself open to such 
accusations by writing a catechism 38 The Jewish 
religion is not a religious arithmetic. It does not permit 
the idea to usurp the place of the spirit. From the 
first the Jew has felt that reahu is not abstract but 
individual. Religion to be a vital influence must be 
lived, not taught, and this condition was fulfilled in the 
Heder. The whole life there was religiously Jewish, for 
though the Jewish school aimed first and foremost to 
cultivate the mind, the other point of view was never 
lost bight of, that "the fear of God is the beginning of 
wisdom " The teachings of the Piophets and the lives 
of the sages were not abstractions to the Heder boys, 
but flesh and bone realities. Rabbi Akiba's persistence, 
through which the water carrier became the most 
celebrated scholar of his day, his devotion to his wife 
Rachel, and his martyr's death, were not mere in- 
cidents in the biography of a hero dead fifteen hundred 
years. They formed the history of an old and tried 


friend whose acts and opinions left an indelible im- 
pression upon the child's mind. The Melamed, on the 
other hand, was not a critical historian. He did not 
differentiate history from fable. The gnat that was 
said to have gnawed the brain of Titus was as historical 
to him as the destruction of the Temple by the same 
Titus. And yet he did more for the preservation of 
Jewish nationalism than all the well-turned phrases of 
modern orators when, on the day preceding Tish'ah 
be-Ab, in a voice choked with tears, he read to his 
pupils the Hurban, the talmudic narrative recount- 
ing the details of the catastrophe that overtook Israel 
in the year seventy and again in one hundred and 

As history was disregarded in the Heder, so ethics as 
such did not appear in the curriculum. There was no 
need to give moral instruction directly. The study of 
the Talmud and of rabbinical literature took the place 
of the best conceivable manual of ethics. It compelled 
the student to think profoundly and assimilate actively 
what suited the needs of his nature in the ample 
wealth of moral teachings scattered throughout this 
literature. The pupil was not called upon to compose 
his face solemnly while moral exhortations were poured 
down upon his devoted head. In the regular course of 
studies the Talmud offered him ethical observations of 
fundamental importance, while ostensibly propound- 
ing an intricate judicial question which requires fine 
dialectical reasoning. The transition from the legal 
element to the ethical in the discussion of the Talmud 
is almost imperceptible; sometimes the inter-relation 


between them is so close that the dividing line cannot 
be discerned. Accordingly, the intellectual interest of 
the student was not interrupted. "Let thy yea be yea, 
and thy nay, nay," for instance, is the last link in a 
long chain of complicated discussions on the legal 
character of a deposit 39 , and the conclusion meant 
nothing to the student who had not followed the 
devious reasoning understandingly and constructively. 

Nor was the imagination of the child left to starve. 
How could it, with the numberless stones the Talmud 
contains about the life and deeds of the great in Israel! 
Take, for example, the very sentence just quoted: "Let 
thy yea be yea, and thy nay, nay.' 1 As an illustration 
of it, we are told concerning Rabbi Safra that he was 
negotiating a sale. The would-be purchaser happened 
to approach Rabbi Safra and spoke to him about the 
transaction at the moment when the rabbi was engaged 
in reciting the Shema*. Not noticing that the rabbi was 
pra> ing, he made him an offer. Rabbi Safra naturally 
would not interrupt his pra\er. With a gesture he tried 
to coiuey to the purchaser that he did not wish to be 
disturbed. Misunderstanding the import of the gesture, 
he ofteied a higher price At the end of his devotions 
Rabbi Safra accepted the first price. He would not 
profit by the other's mistake, for he had silently given 
his assent to the lower offer. 40 

Again, could there be a more impressive way of 
teaching children the Jewish view of the treatment of 
animals than through the suffering of the Patriarch 
Rabbi Judah, the compiler of the Mishnah? A calf, the 
Talmud tells us, about to be led to the shambles, took 


refuge with Rabbi Judah, and hid its head in his 
mantle, entreating help. "Go," said Rabbi Judah, ''for 
this thou wast created." Thereupon it was said in 
heaven : "Because he showed no mercy, no mercy shall 
be shown to him," and suffeung was decreed for him. 
One day his maid-servant wanted to pluck out a nest 
of young weasels which she found in his house and cast 
them out to perish. "Leave them in peace," said Rabbi 
Judah, "it is said of God, 'His tender mercies are over 
all His works*. " Then it was said in heaven : "Because 
he showed mercy, mercy shall be shown to him/' and 
his pain ceased forthwith 4I To develop the feeling for 
which Jewish tenderness more than fifteen hundred 
years ago coined the significant expression, Za'ar 
Ba'ale Hayyim, this nai\e story was more effective 
than many a preachment on our duty to the brute 
creation. The Heder boy, whose sole aim was to search 
out and know the teachings of the ancients, derived 
his ideals from those whose lives interested him in 
the measure in which he entered into their ideals. 

The Heder life must not be thought of as a life of 
serious tasks only. The bo>s had more opportumU to 
play tricks there than in a modern school. Games and 
youthful merriment were quite compatible with the 
big Talmud folios. The Heder decidedly had its gay 
side. On the whole, its life may be said to have been 
less rule-bound than life in a modern school. To begin 
with, the chief spur to study was the expectation of 
reward rather than the fear of punishment. Following 
in the footsteps of old Jewish authorities of high stand- 
ing, a popular book of the beginning of the seventeenth 


century has this to say of the bringing up of children 
"One should always teach a child in pleasant ways. 
First give him fruit, or sugar, or honey cake, and later 
small coins. Then he should be promised clothes as a 
present, always making the reward appropriate to his 
intelligence and his years. Then tell him, if he will 
study diligently he may expect a large dowry when he 
marries; and later he should be told that if he will 
study diligently he will be ordained and will officiate 
as a rabbi. He must be urged on until the boy himself 
realizes that he must study because it is the will of 
God 42 " The directions to teachers are of similar tenor, 
and it was the general habit of teachers to attract the 
children by kindness. To this very day it is the custom, 
as it was hundreds of years ago, for the teacher to 
throw sweets or a few coins on the alphabet chart when 
the child has his first lesson at school, saying at the 
same time "An angel has thrown this down for you 
because you are so good 43 ." In some congregations the 
teachers used to prepare a treat for the children on 
Hamishah 'Asar be-Sheba t, and on Lag ba-'Omer, when 
no school sessions were held. 

The teacher had neither time nor disposition to play 
games with the children. His place was taken by his 
assistant, the "Behelfer," who called for the children at 
their homes and took them back after school hours, 
and one of whose duties it was to provide for the 
entertainment and recreation of his charges. The 
Behelfer was the one who carved the wooden swords 
for Tish'ah be-Ab and manufactured the flags for 
Simhat Torah. If the boys were well-behaved, he 


allowed them to be present while he made his prepara- 
tions for the Purim play, in which he took the part of 
Mordecai or Haman or even, at a pinch, of Esther. 
The big boys, who had outgrown the services of the 
Behelfer, did not scorn to buy his good-will, sometimes 
with hard cash. In the first place, it was important to 
be in his good graces, else he might betray their pranks 
to the teacher. Besides, his active help could not 
always be dispensed with. In summer he was the 
swimming master, and in winter he taught the boys 
how to skate, the two most delightful forms of amuse- 
ment known to Heder boys. But even such neutral and 
secular interests lying at the periphery of Heder life 
did not escape its genuinely Jewish atmosphere. The 
boys did not hesitate to call a certain figure on the ice 
the "Wa-Yomer David run," because it was executed 
in the same position as is adopted in the saying of the 
prayer in question, with the head resting on the arm. 
In addition to all these accomplishments, the Behelfer 
was an adept in making the Drehdel 44 , and this game, 
known to the Greeks, Romans and Germans, was also 
given a Jewish aspect. It was played only on Hanuk- 
kah, but then most vigorously. The sections of the 
class not actively engaged with the teacher played it 
in the intervals between lessons during the Hanukkah 
days, behind the teacher's back, of course. Its con- 
nection with Hanukkah was established by interpreting 
the letters on its four sides as the initial letters of the 
sentence, Nes gadol hayah sham, "A great miracle was 
done there." 
And, in fact, a great miracle was done there ! The 


wonderful salvation of Israel was wrought there, in the 
Heder! Goethe advises us * 'always to oppose the great 
masses produced by the historical process of the ages 
to the perversities of the fleeting hour as they arise.'* 
According to this, the perversities that result when 
individual observations are over-emphasized and eph- 
emeral fashions followed, ought to be opposed by the 
Jewish school as it was developed in the course of 
twenty centuries and more. An important and pro- 
found lesson will be derived, which the Talmud ex- 
presses in the words- "He who says, Nothing exists for 
me but the Jewish religion, not even the Jewish religion 
exists for him." 45 Although the Jewish school was the 
nursery of all the manifold aspects of the Jewish spirit, 
yet it brought forth not only heroes of the intellect, but 
religious geniuses as well. If hitherto the Jews have 
put no pictures of saints in the synagogue, it has not 
been for lack of them, else they might long ago have 
resorted to the device of borrowing them from the other 
nations. It was because the Jews met their ideal saint 
outside of the synagogue as well as inside. He was a 
thinking and an acting saint no less than a praying saint. 
The most significant truth to be learned from the 
long history of Jewish education remains to be men- 
tioned. All true culture issues from a unified Weltan- 
schauung, from a decided view of life and men and the 
world, and in the last resort the value of culture 
depends upon the help it gives us in acquiring and 
formulating such a Weltanschauung. If Jewish educa- 
tion is to resume its old place and significance in 
Jewish life, it must cease to be the supernumerary 


adjunct of a person or a cause. It must again be an 
independent institution, fulfilling its task autono- 
mously. It must be, as it was, the focus of Jewish hfe, 
of the Jewish intellect, and of the Jewish religion. 



While "the sword without and terrorwithin" ravaged 
Jerusalem, a venerable old teacher quit the walls that 
harbored misfortune and fled to the enemy. The Ro- 
man general gave the fugitive, no less a personage than 
Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai, a friendly reception, and 
promised to grant one request that he would prefer. 
'1 he rabbi modestly asked that he be allowed to open 
a school at Jabneh, where he might teach his pupils. 
The imperator had no objection to this harmless de- 
sire, 1 for he could not suspect that its consummation 
would enable Judaism, apparently so weak, to outlive 
Rome, for all its iron strength, by thousands of years. 
Our criticism of Vespasian for his shortsightedness 
would probably be milder if we took into considera- 
tion the fact that at this \ery day there are people 
who reproach the great master for carrying on "aca- 
demic discussions" with the arch-enemy of his people 
at the moment when the noblest of them were shedding 
their bkxxl on the altar of liberty The last eighteen 
hundred years of Jewish history, however, are the best 
justification of the wisdom of Rabban Johanan. That 
the Jewish nation has survived the downfall of its State 
and the destruction of its national sanctuary is above 
all due to this great genius, who made of religious study 
a new form in which the national existence of the Jews 



found expression, so that by the side of the history of 
nearly two thousand years of suffering we can point to 
an equally extensive history of intellectual effort. Study- 
ing and wandenng, thinking and enduring, learning 
and suffering, fill this long period. Thinking is as 
characteristic a trait of the Jew as suffering or, to be 
more exact, thinking rendered suffering possible. For 
it was our thinkers who prevented the wandenng na- 
tion, this true "wandering Jew/* from sinking to the 
level of brutalized vagrants, of vagabond gypsies. 

In Jabneh Rabban Johanan kindled the eternal light 
of the Torah the light that was never to be extin- 
guished. Usha took up the work begun at Jabneh, and 
was in turn replaced by Sepphons, and after the sun 
of learning in Palestine had passed its meridian and 
hastened toward its setting, it appeared in the sky 
of the East. Nehardea, Sura, and Pumbedita for 
eight hundred years radiated a brilliant light, and their 
lustre rivalled that of Jabneh and Sepphons. When, 
toward the beginning of the eleventh century, dark- 
ness spread its wings o\er the Bab> Ionian Jews, bright 
day dawned in European countries. Cordova, Corona, 
and Barcelona in Spain , Mayence, Worms, and Spe\er 
in Germany; Lunel, Montpellier, and Narbonne in 
Provence; and Troyes, Rameru, and Dampiene in 
Champagne are stars of the first magnitude in the 
heaven of Jewish learning. 

The dawning light of modern times did not shine 
upon the Jews of Western and Central Europe. Dur- 
ing this time it was chiefly the Slavic lands that 


offered a refuge for Jewish learning. Posen, Lublin, 
and Cracow in Poland; Brest-Litovsk, Wilna, and 
Grodno in Lithuania began in the sixteenth century to 
assume the position which in the Middle Ages had been 
held by the cities on the Rhine and in Provence. A 
plant native to Palestine, which flourished by the rivers 
of Babylon, blossomed out luxuriantly in Spain, and 
bore savory fruit m icy Poland, must indeed have been 
tended by the hands of gardeners who combined love 
and knowledge in the highest degree. 'The vineyards 
of the Lord," 2 as the Rabbis call the Jewish academies, 
were cultivated by the 7 alrmde Hakamim or, in Eng- 
lish parlance, the Disciples of the Wise. These are the 
men out of whose midst the builders of the unique lit- 
erary monument known as the Talmud arose. 

In the lecture which I have the honor to deliver to 
you to-night, I shall endeavor to describe the intellec- 
tual life, the aims, ideals and achievements of the 
makers of the Talmud or, in other words, to give a 
short characterization of the Jewish scholar at the time 
of the Talmud. I lay special stress upon "scholar" not 
upon "Talmud," although to do justice to the subject, 
an evict definition of the word "Talmud" would be 
necessary. But one lecture would hardly suffice for 
that, and so, without more ado, I shall assume that all 
present here have travelled the "sea of the Talmud" 
and do not need aid to guide them across it. Neverthe- 
less, I cannot refrain from making one remark about 
the Talmud. You doubtless know that a learned 
Capuchin (Henncus Seynensis) once spoke of "Rabbi 
Talmud/' 3 Less known is the fact that the famous 


French theologian, Bossuet, requested the German 
philosopher, Leibnitz, to procure for him the transla- 
tion of the Talmud by Monsieur Mishnah. These 
solecisms in our days of encyclopedias proxoke only 
a pitying smile. The smile, howe\er, disappears when 
one hears opinions about the Talmud on the same level 
of ignorance pronounced by persons fiom whom one 
might expect a better understanding of Judaism and 
of Jewish history. It was recently proclaimed "urbi et 
orbi," that the Talmud or, at least, the greater poition 
of it, together with rabbinical literature in general, con- 
tains nothing but "questions concerning eating and 
drinking, which things are forbidden and which are 
allowed, what is clean and what is unclean," and the 
study of the Talmud was declared to be entirely super- 
fluous in our times, when everything that is pleasant 
is permitted, everything that is attracti\e is clean. And 
what is more, the Talmud has been characterized as a 
work which "tends rather to produce skepticism, " and 
which must, therefore, be kept at a distance from inno- 
cent youth. This advice is not necessary at a time 
when even our Rabbis do not show any evcessn c eager- 
ness for the study of the Talmud, nor is it original. Dur- 
ing the period of the Reformation, the Catholic clergy 
forbade the laity to study the Bible on the ground that 
"it induced skepticism." The only new feature in this 
most recent declaration of war against rabbinical liter- 
ature is that while formerly hatred of the Talmud sprang 
from hatred of the Jew, it was reserved for our gloi ions 
generation to invent a hatred of the Talmud that pur- 
ports to spring from love of the Jew. Well may the Jew 


exclaim "God defend me against my friends and I will 
defend myself against my enemies/' 

The Talmud, which has survived the stake and the 
inquisition, will also resist these impotent attacks, which 
will cease as soon as the understanding of the Talmud 
shall bee ome the common possession of cultivated men 
or, at least, of cultivated, intelligent Jews. If ever the 
saying "by their fruits shall ye know them" was justi- 
fied, it is m the case of the Talmud ; hence the more we 
know of the makers of the Talmud, the nearer we are 
to a correct comprehension of the Talmud itself. 

Already at the beginning of the common era the 
Taint id Hakam 5 not only was the religious head in whom 
the Jew reposed unqualified confidence in spiritual 
matters, but he was also called upon to lead in worldly 
affairs, and his decision, affecting both individual and 
general concerns, was accepted with submission. His 
word carried just as much weight in questions of clean 
and unclean as in questions of "mine and thine." He 
supervised the cult as well as the market places, the 
weights and the measures. He determined the time and 
the form of pi aver and, on the other hand, he regulated 
the relations between employer and employe, and pio- 
tected the lower classes from being exploited by rapa- 
cious capitalists. 

The Talmid Hakam, though the most powerful and 
important member of the community, was not an offi- 
cial appointed by the latter. This fact naturally pro- 
vokes the question so difficult to answer* Whence did 
the Talmid Hakam draw his power? The learned caste 
among the Jews of antiquity and the Middle Ages is a 


unique phenomenon in history. The Talmide Hakamim 
were not priests, for the whole of Israel is a nation of 
priests; they were not Seelensorger, i. e , caretakers of 
the soul, for our ancestors would not have entrusted 
their souls even to a "rabbinical conference/ 1 nor yet 
to a board of trustees, much less to a single person. 
Indeed, the expression "caste" in its real meaning is 
not applicable to the Talmide Hakamim, since the 
Tannaim and Amoraun, as well as later the rabbis of 
the Middle Ages, belonged to various classes of society. 
More than one hundred scholars mentioned in the Tal- 
mud were artisans, a considerable number were trades- 
men, and others were physicians or followed various 
professions. Hence the source whence the Talnnd 
Hakam drew his power is to be found neither in the 
existence of a learned class nor in the constitution of 
the Jewish communit}. It was rather the personality 
of the scholar that gave him his prominent position. 
He was one whose mission was proclaimed by nothing 
in his apparel, but whose life and words made them- 
selves felt in all hearts and consciences. He was of the 
people, and the people recognized themselves in him. 
This explanation possibly is rather awkward for many 
people, because it lays stress on a manifestation of the 
Oriental character of the Jews as such. The Oriental 
is strongly subjective ; he judges everything in life from 
its personal aspect. 

In the opinion of the Oriental, a man whose moral 
make-up is much finer than the average has a right to 
claim not only esteem, but also authority and obedience. 
It was not the learning of the Talmid Hakam that gave 


him his position, but his ideal life, which taught the 
ignorant that knowledge of the Torah is the way that 
leads man upward to perfection. The words of Deuter- 
onomy, "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God," were 
paraphrased as follows by a rabbi of the fourth cen- 
tury: "Through thy deeds thou shalt cause the Lord 
thy God to be beloved and honored of men. Thou shalt 
study the oral as well as the written Torah; thou shalt 
pursue thine affairs honorably, and deal with thy 
neighbor in gentleness. Then will it be said of thee: 
Happy he, that he studied the Torah ; happy his father, 
that he caused him to learn the Torah, happy his 
teacher, that he taught him the Torah; woe to them 
that have not learned the Torah. Behold him who has 
studied the Torah, how beautiful are his ways, how 
just his deeds' Of him it is said in the Scriptures 'Thou 
art My servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified/ " 6 

The learned Capuchin, therefore, who thought the 
Talmud was a person, came much nearer the truth than 
those who hold a Talmudist to be a sort of thinking 
machine, deprived of all personality. No less erroneous 
is it to represent the spiritual activity of the Talmid 
Hakam as one-sided, and the Talmid Hakam himself as 
a learned jurist. The "four ells" of the Halakah seem 
narrow only to the narrow-minded ; as a matter of fact, 
they express in concentrated form a comprehensive in- 
tellectual activity. It is of the essence of genius that it 
strives to find a single comprehensive expression for 
all the complex phenomena of the material, as well as 
of the spiritual world. Modern culture, which owes its 
existence chiefly to the genius of the Hebrews and the 


Greeks, originated only through a process of concen- 
tration. The aesthetic genius of the Greeks produced 
not only the Homenc epics, the lyrics of Pindar, the 
creations of Phidias and Polycletus, but also Platonic 
and Aristotelian philosophy. It was the aesthetic feel- 
ing of the Greeks that in art produced the highest forms 
of harmony and symmetry, and in the province of 
thought endeavored to attain the same end through 
philosophy, which is nothing else than an expression 
of the harmonious and symmetrical relation of the 
whole to the individual. Hebrew genius, like no othei , 
conceived the idea of duty in all its depth, and act ord- 
ingly created the Psalms, in which the deepest expres- 
sion is given to the relation of man to God. But Hcbie\\ 
genius created also the Halakah, the profoundest >n- 
ception of duty both in the relations of man to man 
and of man to God The Halakah, "conduct of life/' 
is as broad and deep as life itself, life in its entile^ 
variety, and it seeks to regulate life even though it 
may seek to do it by summing up all of life's com- 
plexities under one point of view. The Halakah sub- 
ordinates ever> thing to the Torah, but in order that 
the teachers of the Torah might master it, it was neces- 
sary that they should learn to know life in its various 

Accordingly, the material which the Talmid Hakam 
was expected to assimilate embraced all branc hes of 
human learning. But just as the whole of life was dedi- 
cated to religion, so the sciences were drawn into the 
circle of the intellectual activities pursued by the Talmid 
Hakam, not as a sort of mental gymnastics, but chiefly 


to serve the ends of religion, as the Greeks made all 
things subserve their interest in nature and its phe- 
nomena. 'The man," says a teacher of the second cen- 
tury, "who understands astronomy and does not pursue 
the study of it, of that man it is written in Scripture: 
'They regard not the woik of the Lord, neither have 
they considered the operation of His hands ' " 7 The 
observation of nature is in a certain sense held to be 
a religious duty, leading man to admire the greatness 
of (iod and to recognize his own insignificance. At the 
same time astronomy was of great importance for re- 
ligious practice, because in ancient times the Jewish 
calendar was not fixed, and thorough mathematical 
and astronomic knowledge was needed by the Talmid 
Hakam in order that he might make calculations for 
the calendar. Samuel, one of the greatest of the Baby- 
lonian teachers, could say of himself "The streets of 
the heavens are as familiar to me as the streets of 
Nehaidea " 8 Nehardea was his birthplace and the 
city in winch he li\ed. The result is that one of the 
greatest authorities in the history of the calendar, 
could say that the Jewish calendar is the most brilliant 
achievement of its kind 9 Comprehensive knowledge 
of the animal and the plant world was indispensable 
for one \vho sought to investigate and become ac- 
quainted with the Halakah in its widest extent. There 
are entire tractates in the Mishnah, the understanding 
of \\ Inch presupposes a thorough knowledge of natural 
historv I have already said that many Talmide Ha- 
kam im were professional physicians, and this is probably 
to be explained by the fact that the anatomy of the 


human body and the bodies of animals formed an im- 
portant subject in the scheme of their study, since a 
comprehension of important precepts was based upon 
it. In this connection it is interesting to note that the 
Church Father, Jerome, reproaches severely the Jew- 
ish scholars of his age for wasting their time in the 
laboratories of the physician. 10 He showed thereby of 
what little use his great classical learning was to him. 
Highly characteristic of the culture of the Talmid 
Hakam is his attitude toward foreign languages. The 
Hellene looked down with scorn upon every non-Hellene, 
whom he simply called "barbarian/* The immamtas, 
the savagery, the inhumanity of the barbarians consti- 
tuted the opposite pole to the humaiutas, the cmh/a- 
tion, humanity of the Gncco- Roman world. This con- 
ception, derived from the ckissic nations, according to 
which no culture existed outside their own, became, 
mutati s mutandis, a general idea which obtained through- 
out the civilized world. Celsus in the second century 
and Porphyry in the third, despite their many-sided 
culture, had just as little comprehension of the Bible 
as a literary production as \oltaire and Diderot had 
in modern times. The idea of a Wdthteratur-- -universal 
literature we owe to Herder, and the phrase conies 
from Goethe. One expects, therefore, to find in Ger- 
many a fine appreciation of the literature of foreign 
nations. Our old teachers, however, were spared the 
one-sidedness of their non-Jewish contemporaries, and 
these so-called dry-as-dust jurists show in their utter- 
ances a finer understanding of the peculiar! ties of foreign 
languages than did the professional aesthetes of classi- 


cal literature. "There are four languages," remarked 
a teacher of the third century, "that one ought to use: 
Greek for the art of poetry, Latin for the terms of 
military command, Aramaic for elegies, and Hebrew 
for daily speech," 11 a statement which in a measure 
anticipates what Heine said of the Latin language: 
"The speech of the Romans can never disavow its 
origin; it is a speech of command for generals. " 

The translation of the Bible into Greek is charac- 
terized by an allusion to the blessing of Noah: "The 
beauty of Japhet (the Greek language) shall reside in 
the tents of Shorn (the Hebrew Bible)/' 13 The tena- 
cious hold maintained by the Talmudists upon the 
dead language of the Bible sharpened their sense for 
linguistic phenomena, and, from this point of view, we 
may s[>eak of the old Talmide Hakamim as the first 
philologists, since they had to study another language 
beside their mother tongue. Many among the authors 
of the Talmud were masters not only of two, but of 
scxeral languages, such as Persian, Arabic and other 
Oriental languages n These, again, subserved the one 
aim of the Talmid Hakam. His linguistic knowledge 
enabled him to explain many an obscure term in the 
Scriptures ; and it was not mere chance that Ibn Koreish, 
a North African rabbi, should have discovered the law 
governing the transmutation of consonants in cognate 
Semitic dialects. 14 His knowledge of the Hebrew Bible 
and the Aramaic Targum, joined to the knowledge of 
his mother tongue, made of the Jewish-Arabic scholar 
a master of the chief divisions of the Semitic group of 


Up to this point I have done no more, to use a tal- 
mudic expression, than circumscribe the periphery of 
the circle within which the Talmid Hakam moved. The 
center from which all the diverse tendencies of his 
activity radiated was religious study, the doctrine of 
the law, briefly called the Halakah. I may preface my 
further remarks by quoting a Roman writer, Cicero, 
an anti-Semite of An an descent (the Semitic species 
of this genus is a modern pioduct). Cicero sa>s* "I 
will boldly declare my opinion though the \\ hole world 
be offended by it. I prefer this little book of the Twelve 
Tables alone to all the volumes of the philosophers. I 
find it to be not only of moie weight, but also much 
more useful. " IS 

I have quoted these words of a pagan \\ho had hos- 
tile feelings towaid the Je\\s because thev betray a 
better understanding of the Law than is shovui bv some 
modern theologians, be it of the JcvMsh or of the Chris- 
tian persuasion. What Cicero sa\s of the Roman law 
is even more applicable to the Torah, the highest form 
for all the relations of life. Although the Talmide II a- 
kamim were well versed in the bram hes of learning 
generally pursued in their time, then real occupation 
was the interpretation of the Scriptures and the study 
of the Halakah Like Cicero, the Talmid Hakam pre- 
ferred the study of the Torah to all other learned 
pursuits; for, if the Torah was the true and eternal 
revelation of God, then its statements must find ap- 
plication in all times and in all circumstances, then it 
must comprehend not only the dogmatic and the ethical 
in religion ; not only the ceremonial law, whose aim is 


exclusively the maintenance of what is moral and re- 
ligious, but also everything that man does to preserve 
himself body arid soul. For the Talmid Hakam moral- 
ity, justice, society, in short, all provinces of culture 
stood in close inward connection with religion, so that 
the search in theTorah included this and much more. 
"Searc h the 1 orah carefully , search it again, for every- 
thing is contained therein, and swerve not therefrom, 
for thou canst have no greater excellency than this/' 16 

These are the words of a teacher of the first century, 
and they clearly express what the study of the Torah 
was to the Talmid Hakam The law that manifests 
itself to the eves of man everywhere in the blade of 
grass which completes its course in unfolding and 
withering, in the stone that falls to earth, in the track 
of the stars far above us this same law rules the life 
of man, and the same (od whose law is obeved by the 
entire universe in its tiniest parts, gave also to man 
the law of hks life. It is to such an ideal conception of 
the Torah that we owe true Jewish piet> , which was 
too caine^t and too tenacious to resort to sacraments 
as the lame iesoit to crutches and hypochondriacs to 
quack medic ines. 

After piepaiatum in the elementary and secondary 
schools the Talmid Hakam received his education in 
the Bet ha- Mulrash (house of research). Although 
nothing is kno\\n concerning the origin of these Jewish 
academies, we shall probably not be far from right if 
we suppose them to have been established in the time 
of the earlv Scribes. The author of the apocryphal 
book "Kcclesiasticus" knows the institution as well as 


its name, 17 but we learn little from him concerning its 
characteristics. Typical of the school is the name given 
it in ancient times, 18 Bet Wa'ad la-Hakamim, "the 
house of assembly of the wise." In contrast to our 
universities, in which there are only instructors and 
pupils, the Bet Wa'ad was the place that brought to- 
gether scholars and disciples scholars who exchanged 
views and opinions with one another; disciples who 
were not only allowed the right to put questions, but 
might also express their opinion though, of course, in 
modest fashion. One must not forget, then, that the 
Talmid Hakam of old ever remained a student, and 
was at all times ready to sit at the feet of a master if 
only he found one. The difference between teacher and 
disciple was thus in many cases not a distinction of 
age but of learning. 

There were academies in ancient times in every large 
city, and even in small places where a prominent 
scholar happened to have his home. Before the de- 
struction of the Temple, as long as Jerusalem const i - 
tuted the spiritual center of the Jews, the most important 
schools were in that city. In Jerusalem the great I fillel 
sat at the feet of his masters Shemayah and Abtalion ; 
here later he himself gathered large numbers of pupils 
about him; and here too during a fairly long period of 
time, his favorite pupil, Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai, 
continued his activity as a teacher until the destruc- 
tion of the Temple transferred the center of Jewish 
learning from Jerusalem to other places. As has been 
pointed out above, it was this master who rendered a 
service never to be forgotten the establishment of a 


spiritual center for Judaism outside of the holy city 
and independent of the sanctuary at Jerusalem. And 
this was accomplished by the academy founded by 
him at Jabneh. As Josephus remarks in a work written 
by him soon after the destruction of the Temple, "For 
though we be deprived of our wealth, of our cities 
or of the other advantages we have, our Law continues 
immortal/' 19 

Occupation with the Law or, in other words, the study 
of the To rah became much more intensive after the 
destruction of the Temple than it had been before, 
since from this time on it was the one outlet open to 
the energy and genius of the Jewish nation. As a re- 
sult, toward the end of the first century we find along- 
side of the academy at Jabneh, which was presided 
over by the Patriarch, similar important institutions 
in Pekim, Lydda, Bene-Barak and a number of other 
places " And the powerful influence of these schools 
u{x>n the people may be l>est judged from the fact that 
the religious persecution of Hadrian was able to deci- 
mate the Jews, but was impotent to annihilate Judaism, 
which came forth from the glorious struggle fresh and 
jx>werful. At the end of the second century the aca- 
demies stood upon heights hitherto unattamed, so that 
the eflects of the bloody wars and the still bloodier 
persecutions can scarcely be detected in them. 

At this time a new, pulsating, intellectual life began 
for the Jews of Babylonia under the leadership of Abba 
Anka and Samuel, and the turning point is marked by 
the foundation of the academy at Sura by Abba Anka 
and the reorganization of the old academy at Nehardea 


by Samuel. While the former school flourished for 
nearly one thousand years, the ancient Jewish city of 
Nehardea was destroyed a few years after the death 
of Samuel. But the traditions of that school were con- 
tinued in Pumbedita, which was still a seat of Jewish 
learning near the middle of the eleventh centurj 2l 

I must refrain from giving a detailed description of 
these academies, because it does not belong to the 
subject under discussion, and shall limit myself to a 
few points which will characterize them and at the 
same time throw some light upon the personality of 
the Talmid Hakam. What especially attracts one to 
these Jewish academies is their democratic character 
Culture, religious as well as secular, is a power, and 
so originally a privilege of the ruling classes. The gen- 
eral impression prevailing nowacla\s that theological 
studies are good enough for persons who cannot do 
anything better is exactly the opposite of what our 
ancestors of old thought. They were not content to 
have had scholarly grandfathers; they desired that 
their grandchildren should partake of the same honor. 
We see, then, that there was a time among the ancient 
Jews, as among all other nations of old, when the sc hool 
doors stood open only to the aristocratic and the rich " 
These aristocratic privileges, however, disappeared 
very quickly, and the Bet ha-Midrash more and 
more developed into an institution eminently success- 
ful in fostering the democratic spirit. "Take heed of 
the children of the poor, for from them will come forth 
the word of God," is a favorite saying of the Talmud- 
ists. 23 The Patriarch and president of the academy at 


Jabneh, Rabban Gamaliel II, undoubtedly the most 
aristocratic Jew of his time, shared the dignity of his 
office with the poor smith, Rabbi Joshua, 24 who held 
the post of Ab Bet Dm, vice-president. A generation 
later RaLban Simeon, the son of Rabban Gamaliel, who 
inherited his father's position and honors, had as his 
two co-regents in the direction of the academy the son 
of the Exilarch in Babylon, one of the greatest officials 
of the Persian kingdom, and a poor scribe whose weekly 
income amounted to three denars, a third of which he 
gave away to still poorer scholars 2S In an institution 
directed by a duke and a smith it is obvious that no 
distinctions of caste or of class could arise. Peaceful!) , 
side In side on the same bench, sat physician and tailor, 
shoemaker and landed proprietor. In the halls of the 
Torah all were equal or, in the words of the Rabbis, 
"only he is free who occupies himself \vith the study 
of the Torah " 26 

Asa matter of course, this spirit of equality prevailed 
be\ond the doors of the academy as well as within 
On the one hand, it must be remembered that the 
Talnud Hakam spent more time in the Bet ha-Midrash 
than beyond its walls and, on the other hand, it is no 
less true that what was learned at the school realized 
its true purpose only when it was put to practical use 
in daily life. Consequently, the Bet ha-Midrash con- 
tributed more than any other institution of antiquity 
to cause differences of class and caste to disappear from 
among the Je\vs To sing hymns about the equality of 
men and then, on leaving the house of God, to snub 
the beadle, ib not the way, according to the Jewish 


conception, which leads to democratic sentiment. I 
do not wish to be misunderstood. I do not mean to 
deny the old Talmide Hakamim class consciousness. 
They were aristocrats of the intellect; they belonged 
to an aristocracy which carried with it no privileges, 
but many duties* They were rather democratic aris- 
tocrats than aristocratic democrats. A work bearing 
the title 'The Conduct of the Wise," preserved from 
the period when Jewish learning was in its flower in 
Palestine, gave the Talmid Hakam, in brief and crisp 
form, a program according to which he was to regulate 
his entire life. The first sentence of the work reads: 
"The way of the wise is to be modest, humble, alert 
and intelligent; to endure injustice, to make himself 
beloved of men ; to be gracious even in intercourse with 
subordinates; to avoid wrongdoing; to judge each man 
according to his deeds; to act according to the motto, 
'I take no pleasure in the good things of this world, 
seeing that life here below is not my portion/ Wrapped 
in his mantle he sits at the feet of the wise; no one can 
detect anything unseemly in him; he puts pertinent 
questions and gives suitable answers/' 37 

If we were to inquire of the Talmud the true reflex 
of the intellectual and spiritual activity of the Jews 
what it has to tell us about the life of the men that 
built it up, we would get an entirely different picture 
from that drawn by the simple Galilean fishermen in 
their denunciation of the Scribes. How different was 
the true Talmid Hakam from the caricature which 
paints him as the man who thanks God for not having 
made him like other people. A current saying among 


the scholars of Jabneh, which may therefore be re- 
garded as a characterization of Talmudists by the Tal- 
mud, runs as follows: "I am God's creature and so is 
my fellow-man; my vocation is in the city, his is in 
the field; I go to my work joyfully and he goes to his; 
as he does not pride himself upon his work, so I do 
not pride myself upon mine, and should he think that 
he accomplishes little while I accomplish great things, 
I would remind him of what we have learned : Whether 
much, whether little, it is all the same, provided the 
heart be directed toward Heaven/' 28 Instead of the 
pride usually attributed to the Pharisees, it is pre- 
cisely the opposite traits, modesty and humility, which 
are designated as the necessary conditions for being a 
Talmid Hakam; and the Talmud, as well as the rest of 
rabbinical literature, is full of examples drawn from 
the lives of great men in Israel, which best illustrate 
how their conduct measured up to the standards which 
they themselves set up. The following is related of 
Rabbi Meir, the most distinguished disciple of Rabbi 
Akiba and the greatest scholar of his time: One Friday 
evening a woman came home very late because she had 
attended a lecture of Rabbi Meir, which he had drawn 
out to great length. Her husband was furious. He 
slammed the door in her face and swore he would not 
let her in until she had spit in the Rabbi's face. When 
Rabbi Meir heard of the quarrel, he pretended that he 
had pain in his eyes and begged the woman to charm 
away his trouble. The way to do this, according to an 
old superstition, was to spit on the eyes. The woman 
did so, and in parting from her after having undergone 


the pretended treatment, Rabbi Melr said to her: "Go 
home now and tell your husband you have done his 
bidding and have spit in my face." 39 

But the Talmid Hakam could also be proud and 
aristocratic, especially in the interest of truth and vir- 
tue. A rabbi of the third century once preached an 
impassioned sermon against the Patriarch and his 
house, who were eager enough to maintain their rights 
but concerned themselves little about their duties. His 
bold speech brought him into great danger, and it 
needed the intercession of prominent scholars to ap- 
pease the Patriarch. But when the poor rabbi appeared 
before the prince, who probably expected an apology, 
the rabbi began to complain of the depravity of the 
times and ended with the words, "as the garden, so 
the gardener. " J0 By this he wanted to show the Patri- 
arch that he was not justified in putting all the blame 
upon the people. 

The great Amora, Abba Arika, on his return from 
Palestine to his Babylonian home, was appointed super* 
visor of the markets by the Exilarch. His duties con- 
sisted in inspecting weights and measures and regulat- 
ing prices. The Exilarch bade him keep prices down 
and prevent increase in the cost of foodstuffs. But 
Abba Arika disregarded the command of the Exilarch, 
although it would have met with the approval of the 
people because, in his opinion, it was against the law, 
which had to guard the interests of the tradesmen as 
well as those of the people at large. His refusal cost 
him his liberty; he was thrown into prison by the 
Exilarch.' 1 


In general the clashes between the Talmid Hakam 
and the Jewish secular rulers, the exilarchs and patri- 
archs, are very typical of the strength of character 
displayed by the Talmide Hakamim and their strict 
adherence to principle. Neither threats nor allure- 
ments on the part of the authorities had any influence 
upon them. Unconcerned about their personal inter- 
ests, they insisted upon what was right and just. It is 
related of some Talmide Hakamim that they refused 
to accept gifts or invitations even from the patriarchal 
house because they wanted to be entirely independent. 
Once a certain rabbi accepted an invitation to dine 
with the Patriarch, but he said expressly, in true aris- 
tocratic fashion, "I do not want to deprive His Excel- 
lency of the honor of my presence/' 33 

This independence and freedom, which the Talmid 
Hakam would not have exchanged for any treasures in 
the world, were in a measure due to the fact that the 
frugal needs of the Talmid Hakam were readily satis- 
fied ; indeed, he may be said to have been almost with- 
out wants. His principle was: 'This is the path of the 
Torah : A morsel of bread with salt shalt thou eat; thou 
shalt drink water by measure, and shalt sleep upon the 
ground, and live a life of trouble, the while thou toilest 
in the Torah. If thou doest thus, happy shalt thou be 
in this world, and it shall be well with thee in the world 
to come. 1 ' 3 * 

This sentence, however, is not a pious wish. It cor- 
responds to an essential feature in the make-up of the 
Jewish scholar; and numerous examples occur in the 
Talmudim and Mid rash im that show us how the Tal- 


xnide Hakamim tried to realize the principle in their 
own lives. It is related of Rabbi Eleazar b. Harsum, 
the Rothschild of the second century, the owner of a 
thousand villages and a thousand ships, that a bag of 
flour sufficed for his needs. He carried the bag on his 
back and daily journeyed in this fashion from teacher 
to teacher in order to pursue the study of the Torah. 
Being unknown to his employes, as he never appeared 
among them to transact business, he was on one occa- 
sion forced by them to do compulsory work. When he 
begged them to let him go his way that he might con- 
tinue his study, they exclaimed: ''As surely as our 
master, Rabbi Eleazar b. Harsum, lives, we will not 
let you go."* 

A similar story is told of a contemporary of Rabbi 
Eleazar, the celebrated Rabbi Tarphon. A keeper of 
his garden caught him eating dates which he had found 
lying on the ground after the harvest. The keeper, 
who did not know him and who had been recently 
troubled a good deal by thieves, seized the rabbi, 
thrust him into a bag and wanted to throw him into 
the water, but the rabbi, nigh to death, cried out: 
"Woe unto Tarphon that he must meet with such an 
end." These few words were enough to throw the 
keeper into a panic, and he set the rabbi free. A col- 
league of Rabbi Tarphon adds that all his life Rabbi 
Tarphon regretted the episode and was wont to ex- 
claim: "Woe is me that I made use of the crown of the 
Torah." The fear of deriving any profit from learning 
was carried to such an extreme by Rabbi Tarphon that 
he could never forgive himself for having made use of 


his fame in order to save his life. 35 We may consider 
this complete renunciation of every feeling of ambition 
and pride as exaggerated, but we cannot help admiring 
such heroic sentiments. "Whoever makes use of the 
crown/' said Hillel, "will perish." A younger contem- 
porary of his added the explanation : "Make not of the 
Torah a crown wherewith to glorify thyself nor a spade 
wherewith to dig." 3 * The Torah is a crown and raises 
its wearer to the highest rank of society. But the 
crown of the Torah has value only if the man that 
wears it joins to it the crown of good deeds. 

In conclusion, let me characterize briefly the differ- 
ence between the Talmid Hakam and the 'Am ha-Arez, 
a difference which existed among Jews even in very 
early times, and which to a certain extent continues to 
exist to this very day. 

There are certain theologians who warmly espouse 
the side of the 'Am ha-Arez, which is all the more 
astonishing as they themselves are brimful of the very 
faults, such as self-sufficiency, pride of learning and the 
like, which they are so fond of describing as "Pharisaic." 
They are the men who while speaking about the Phari- 
see, who thanked God for not having made him like 
other people, do not fail to thank their God for not 
having made them like the Pharisee. They would do 
well to study the character and temperament of the 
Talmid Hakam as they have unfolded themselves be- 
fore our eyes in our attempt to trace out his history, 
development and attitude toward life and its concerns. 

As we have seen, the Talmid Hakam was a cultivated 
man ; but what counted for more, he was a thoroughly 


ethical being. Culture, morality and learning were on 
the side of the Talmid Hakam. It is not lack of learning 
that stigmatizes one as an 'Am ha-Arez, but lack of 
morality and culture. We have indeed other standards 
of culture today; and as for morality, it is not an un- 
usual thing in certain circles to wink at traits not 
altogether admirable, if only the person to be admitted 
into so-called good society possesses certain other use- 
ful qualities. 

Which of the two, then, is guilty of "Pharisaic" 
hypocrisy, modern society or that of the ancient Jews? 
The reply to this question I leave to every man of 
unbiased judgment. 

The love and veneration with which the great mass 
of the people and by far the greater part of them were 
'Amme ha-Arez clung to the Talmide Hakamim, their 
guides and teachers, express clearly the people's ap- 
proval of the ways in which their leaders sought to 
direct them. The dominating principle of the Talmid 
Hakam at all times was: Kol Yisracl Habcnm, "all 
Israel forms one brotherhood." 



The appellation "people of the book," coined for the 
Jews by one of the greatest men of the Middle Ages 1 , 
characterizes them in more ways than one. Primarily 
it indicates their devotion to the Bible, the Book of 
books, the most precious gift conferred upon mankind 
by Israel, and Israel's most conspicuous contribution 
to civilization the Holy Scripture, without which we 
cannot conceive of a peculiar Jewish people in the past, 
in the present, or in the future. But the Jews are not 
"the people of the Holy Book" alone; they are also the 
people of the book in general. The history of Israel is 
not a chronicle of the development of political power 
and greatness; it is the story of a peculiar spiritual 
development; and the national heroes of Israel are not 
heroes of the sword but of the pen. Therefore, the loss 
of political independence did not destroy Israel as an 
historical entity. 

This original character of Jewish history must be 
patent to the most superficial observer. The fixation 
of the Canon, the redaction of the Mishnah, the com- 
pletion of the Talmud, the appearance of the Moreh 
Nebukim, these are the events that mark off the 
epochs of Jewish history, while the recital of the 
external events consists of nothing but monotonous 
repetitions of long drawn out martyrologies lacking 



even typical chapter headings. As regards cruelty and 
inhumanity, the persecutions inflicted in the name of 
the religion of love are in no measure inferior to those 
sponsored by the representatives of Hellenic civiliza- 
tion; and the barbarism of the twentieth century can- 
not lay claim to any refinements in the treatment of 
the Jews not known and practised by the dark centu- 
ries of mediaeval days. 

In view of the fact that Jewish history in its essence 
is the history of a literature and of a culture, it is 
natural that in many lands its beginnings should coin- 
cide with the rise in those places of the study of the 
Talmud. Jews lived for more than ten centuries in 
Europe and Northern Africa, and aside from regularly 
recurring persecutions, we hear nothing about their 
fate and fortunes during the whole of this long period. 
Toward the end of the tenth century of the common 
era, we are told in an old chronicle, four distinguished 
Jewish scholars while on a sea-voyage were taken 
captive by a Spanish-Moorish admiral. Their subse- 
quent fortunes carried them, the one to Spain, the 
second to Northern Africa, the third to Egypt, and the 
fourth, it seems, as far as Narbonne, each of them 
becoming the founder of Jewish scholarship in his new 
home. Recent investigations go to show that this 
report is more or less legendary 3 but, as in many 
another case, the legend expresses truth in the form 
in which it appeals to the imagination of the people. 
For the fact remains unchallenged that the establish- 
ment of Talmud schools toward the end of the tenth 
centiuy id Spain, France, and Northern Africa intro- 


duces a new era in the history of the Jews of these 
countries. What we are told about them up to the 
end of the tenth century concerns the fate of the Jews 
living there; after the foundation of the Talmud 
schools, there begins a history of Judaism and of 
Jewish culture. R. Hushiel, R. Moses, and R. Elhanan 
ben Shemariah are not merely the founders of talmudic 
learning in the lands of their adoption, they are also 
the originators of Jewish culture there. 

The characterization of the rabbi as architect and 
exponent of Jewish culture makes it obvious that we 
are here not concerned with the rabbinical institution 
of modern times. The rabbi of centuries gone by called 
himself neither disciple of the prophets, nor successor 
to the priests, nor pastor, nor aught resembling these 
epithets. He was anything but what we are at present 
in the habit of understanding by the term rabbi. He 
was neither an official of the congregation nor its 
minister. His modesty forbade the one, his pride the 
other. He was master over none but himself, and he 
was servant to none but his God. Still less may we 
conceive of the rabbi of yore as the preacher, the orator 
of the synagogue. In the good old times, every Jew 
considered himself at home in the synagogue, and 
there was no need to delegate the privilege of speaking 
to one particular person. For a specialist who says the 
prayers for the rest of the worshippers there was no 
sphere of activity at a time in which every single 
member of the congregation was an eager participant 
in the divine service. Nor could rabbinic Judaism, 
which lays particular stress upon the dogma of the 


direct communion between God and man, brook the 
intervention of a mediator between the Most High 
and the meanest of His human creatures. In short, 
the rabbinate as a profession is of comparatively 
recent growth. In the olden days, rabbis were re- 
cruited from all classes of society. State officials and 
men in the humblest walks of life, physicians, astrono- 
mers, tradesmen, and artisans, all vied with one 
another in the vast audience-chamber of rabbinical 
literature, and there they and their opinions all re- 
ceived equal consideration. "The student of the Torah 
who devotes himself to its investigation in order to 
escape the duty of toil and self-support, desecrates the 
honor of God ; he disgraces the Torah, extinguishes the 
light of faith, brings an evil fate down upon himself, 
and forfeits his portion in the world to come." 3 These 
expressions are not excerpted from a collection of 
ethical sayings, but are quoted from a rabbinical code 
of laws, and they explain, from an economic point of 
view, why a rabbinical profession could not develop in 
former days. 

What is it that made the Jewish scholar of the 
Middle Ages the important factor he actually was in 
the spiritual life of his people? The reply to this 
question is of vital interest, and not alone to those of 
us to whom Jewish culture is more than an idle word. 
Even he who does not see his ideal in the rabbi of the 
Middle Ages, will do well to examine his radiant figure 
and try to define and grasp its harmonious proportions. 
The old rabbinical ideal is in very truth superseded 
only when the best it offers can be replaced by some- 


thing better. To shove it aside contemptuously is not 
to know it. Who knows it cannot but admit how much 
is to be learned from it and the instruction will come, 
not from an adversary but from a friend, which in- 
struction far from fettering his modernity will but 
enhance it. 

I have chosen the inner and outer life of the rabbin- 
ical student as my subject, because I hold that a 
consideration of it will enable us to reply to the 
question, what is it that gave the Jewish scholar his 
peculiarly important place in the spiritual economy of 
his nation? 

The first communal duty as well as the highest 
since all others depended upon it was to provide for 
the broadest possible dissemination of a knowledge of 
Jewish literature among the membersof thecommunity . 
It was the conscious purpose to train every Jew to go 
to his national literature for draughts of spiritual 
refreshment. The boy was led to it; through it the 
youth was to develop into maturity; from it the full- 
grown man was to derive enlightenment and strength 
and courage for his work and his activities; and with 
its light as a lamp for his feet, the venerable in years 
was to travel the path to the hereafter. 

Besides elementary schools, every Jewish community 
of size and standing had an intermediate school for the 
advanced study of the Bible and the Talmud. 

A latter day description of talmudical studies in the 
German and Polish Yeshibot is not unlike the sensa- 
tions a hungry man experiences while reading the 
menu of a French chef. Of what avail the fine names 


without the substantial products of his art? Shibbo- 
leths like Pilpul, dialectics, sophistry, beg the question. 
They are weak characterizations of an intellectual 
tendency that moulded the greatest Talmudists of the 
last four hundred years. Modern historians are lavish 
of praise for the well-ordered studies of the Sefardim, 
and equally lavish of censure for the topsy-turvy 
methods in vogue among the Ashkenazim, which 
embarked a ten-year-old lad on the "sea of the Tal- 
mud" and kept him there until he became a master 
navigator. In view of this attitude, is it not rather 
startling to find that since the time of Rabbi Joseph 
Caro (d. 1575) the Sefardim cannot show a single 
name in the realm of the Talmud comparable with the 
distinguished scholars of Poland? Would it not seem 
that after all there must have been method in the 
methodlessness of the Polish Jew? The principle 
underlying the study of the Talmud in Poland was 
"non multa sed multum," not quantity but quality. 
Whatever was studied was searched out in every detail, 
while with the Sefardim the thing that signified was 
the extent of the field covered. For the Sefardim 
learning was a matter of sentiment, for the Polish Jew 
it was an intellectual occupation. The former studied 
in order to know how the law would have them act in 
given practical cases; the latter in order to analyze the 
theory on which the practice was based. The Sefardic 
student aimed to become a rabbi who would have to 
decide questions of law and custom; the Ashkenazic 
student, to become a Lamdan able to control the 
decisions of his rabbi and, in case of necessity, show up 


their falsity. The protest made by a number of 
prominent Polish scholars of the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries* against the dominant practice in the 
study of the Talmud, was justified from the point of 
view of sentiment. The dialectic method gradually 
secularized Jewish religious knowledge. But it must be 
borne in mind that the Lamdan educated in the Heder 
does not represent the class of the pious ; he is the type 
of the educated Jew, and the decried method was the 
only one calculated to produce this type. It is incorrect 
to think of the Yeshibah as a religious school, as it is 
generally assumed to be. It was more, it was the 
institution for general Jewish education. 

Errors are transmitted like diseases. The inaccurate 
rendering of the Hebrew word "Torah" by "law," for 
which we are indebted to our Greek-speaking brethren, 
has all along been a barrier in the way of a certain 
school of theologians. 1 1 has prevented them effectually 
from understanding the system of Rabbinism as a 
whole, but especially from comprehending the specific 
ideal of Rabbinism which is summed up in the term 
Talmud Torah, the study of the Torah. The most 
deplorable aspect of this lack of comprehension is that 
it has not remained without effect upon the Jews 
themselves, at least so far as their estimate of the 
development of post-talmudic Judaism is concerned. 

Torah is not law. It is an expression for the aggre- 
gate of Jewish teachings. It comprises every field and 
mark of culture morality, justice, society, education, 
etc. The term aims to gather them all up as a unit 
because the Jewish view is that all the nobler mani- 


festations of human conduct must be connected 
with religion. The education of the Jewish child, 
from the Soferim down to our own day, has been 
exclusively Jewish, though not exclusively religious, 
certainly not exclusively legalistic. Paradoxical as it 
may sound, the education of the Ashkenazic child was 
more secular than the education of the Sefardic child. 
The Jewish school of the Sefardim had a more strongly 
religious character than that of the Ashkenazim, in 
spite of the fact that the Sefardic child was taught 
non-Jewish branches of knowledge. Externals do not 
count. Nine hundred years ago, Mohammedan chil- 
dren sat on the same benches with Jewish children in a 
synagogue used for school purposes. 5 That was among 
Sefardim. Nothing like it is thinkable among the 
Ashkenazim, whose educational system was laid out on 
Jewish lines exclusively, not because they objected to 
secular knowledge on principle, but because in Chris- 
tian countries education of any kind was clerical and, 
of course, inaccessible to the Jew. The very fact that 
the Sefardim were often adepts in philosophy and the 
natural sciences produced the result that Jewish 
studies among them gradually stiffened into a religious 
exercise. They cultivated them to satisfy their heart's 
cravings. For the Sefardic intellect there were other 
than Jewish sources of gratification. Among the Ash- 
kenazim, Jewish studies offered the sole and only field 
for the manifestation of their mental activity. As a 
consequence, even their religious literature was culti- 
vated for educational and intellectual purposes. At the 
end of about five centuries of parallel development, the 


two tendencies culminated in the sixteenth century, 
the one in the Kabbalah of the Orientals, the other in 
the Pilpul of the Jews of Poland. The process was this : 
When the Sefardim were expelled from the Pyrenean 
Peninsula and came to countries in which culture and 
science were at a low ebb, their intellect had no sup- 
port ; they had to fall back upon their Jewish feeling, 
and so they lost themselves in mysticism. In Poland, 
again, where the Jews likewise came in contact with a 
low stage of cultural development, the same intellectual 
attitude asserted itself in them which in the twelfth 
century had brought forth the school of the Tosafists 
in France. Critics like Rabbi Solomon Loria and 
Rabbi Joel Sirkes in Poland may fitly be mentioned 
in the same breath with Rabbi Jacob Tarn and Rabbi 
Isaac ben Samuel in France. The Pilpul, so far from 
being the result of a process of deterioration, is in 
reality nothing but the inevitable issue of the intellec- 
tual movement inaugurated by the Soferim. From the 
first the school was raised on a national basis, the only 
firm foundation for the education of the young, and as 
religion occupies the most prominent place in the 
national life of the Jews, the Jewish school was a 
religious institution as well. So long as the Jews lived 
in their own land, and could develop their national 
life without let or hindrance, there was no objection to 
introducing elements of alien origin into the school. 
It had no difficulty in transforming them Jewishly and 
assimilating them. 

But when a national life was precluded, the Jewish 
school perforce had to narrow its compass. This was 


the only escape from the dangers of absorption by the 
surrounding cultures which menaced Jewish intellec- 
tual life. But even after its aims suffered such contrac- 
tion, the Jewish school did not fail to reveal the 
intellectual impulse as the mainspring of the education 
it afforded. In spite of its one-sidedness in excluding 
everything non -Jewish, therefore, the Talmud Heder 
did not cease to be the great national institution for 
the development of the Jewish intellect. 

Student life in the true sense of the term began for 
the Jewish youth when, at the age of seventeen or 
eighteen, he left home and fared forth on his journey- 
ings. Poor travelling students were, in fact, a mediaeval 
institution. One result of this was the production of a 
large number of tramps who called themselves students 
and who wandered about over Europe and lived on the 
charitable. They were little better than sturdy beggars 
and idle vagabonds, and as such, no small trouble to 
the towns and villages at which they halted. 6 

Ein fahrender Scholast? Der Casus machi mich 
lachen, says Faust. The contemplation of the Jewish 
student during his journeyman years compels not 
laughter but rather honest admiration. What sacrifices 
was he not ready to bring, the Jewish youth who 
trudged afoot from the banks of the Danube to the 
banks of the Seine, bidding defiance to hunger and 
cold, only to drink in the words of some far-famed 
master! How he would wander about, a restless way- 
farer, for half a year across ditches and mountains and 
among brigands on his journey from Cologne to Venice 
for the sake of the Talmud explanations to be had from 


an Italian scholar! To follow a school to new abodes 
was, to be sure, not a novel phenomenon peculiar to 
the Middle Ages. The Jewish sage of the second 
century warmly recommends the practice of exiling 
oneself to a place in which the Torah is taught. But 
when the Jews had scattered over all the continents, 
it took on a new meaning. In ancient times the only 
countries that entered into the Jewish student's 
itinerary were Palestine and Babylonia, and the num- 
ber who resorted to them from distant lands was 
naturally inconsiderable. But when the study of the 
Talmud began to flourish in Middle and Western 
Europe, when every country, every province had its 
distinguished man and boasted famous names, then it 
became an essential in the education of a Jewish 
scholar to have enjoyed the personal instruction of 
renowned masters, and he shrank from no sacrifice, 
however great, to obtain this privilege. 

Of entrance examinations and graduating exercises 
there were none. The schools made demands upon 
their pupils without conferring privileges, and there- 
fore such formalities as examinations were entirely out 
of place. The student merely presented himself before 
the master whose course of lectures he wished to 
attend, and a brief conversation sufficed to reveal the 
extent of his rabbinical attainments. If the teacher 
was satisfied with the prospective disciple, he was 
enrolled a member of the Yeshibah, as the Talmud 
academy was called. 

In one respect the Jewish student was the superior 
of his Christian colleague; as he exceeded him in years 


when he entered the school for higher learning, so he 
surpassed him in knowledge. 7 On the average, the 
candidate for university work in the Middle Ages was 
a lad of fourteen who had read Aristotle instead of 
Cicero and disputed about sophisms instead of doing 
Latin prose composition. When the Bahur presented 
himself in the Yeshibah, he had endured a very much 
severer intellectual discipline. In the Heder he had 
gone through the whole or at least the greater part of 
the Bible, the instruction in the Scriptures being based 
upon the commentary of Rashi from almost the time 
of its appearance. If little stress was laid upon Hebrew 
grammar, the implied loss was more than compensated 
for in that the pupil learned Hebrew, the language 
itself, in the Heder. The commentary of Rashi had 
peculiar qualities that made it an eminently fit in- 
troduction to the study of the Holy Scriptures. A 
simple, natural system of exegesis which, through the 
frequent use of the Midrash, was presented with warm, 
deep feeling, made the Bible a living book to the child 
student. It enabled him to penetrate to its very 
recesses. At the same time the study of the Scripture 
with Rashi was the best possible introduction to 
rabbinical literature the Midrash and the Talmud 
from which Rashi gives frequent quotations in his 
Bible commentary, making them intelligible in his 
unsurpassed way. Instruction in the Talmud was 
begun at an early age. When the Bahur entered the 
Yeshibah at the age of seventeen, he could look back 
upon at least seven years of Talmud study. In the 
Middle Ages a candidate was allowed to enter the 


University of Paris only on condition that "he pre- 
sented his petition to the rector in Latin, without 
resort to French words." The Jewish student at a 
corresponding point in his career, not only was master 
of the Hebrew language, but also was acquainted with 
a considerable portion of the post-biblical literature. 
It is true the Hebrew used by the mediaeval rabbis has 
been subjected to adverse criticism, but the criticism 
has, as a rule, proceeded from such as were not able to 
read the works of the scholars upon whose language 
they cast aspersions. It is human frailty to throw the 
blame for our own shortcomings upon others. In this 
case, however, the fact is undeniable that the idiom 
which in the Scripture is known to us essentially as the 
exalted medium of lyric passion was transformed by 
the rabbis into a pliable, elastic and precise medium 
for legal discussions and the multifarious needs of a 
complex civilization. The so-called barbarisms in the 
rabbinical Hebrew appear chiefly in the coining of new 
terms from the talmudic language and in the new 
forms developed from the classical Hebrew, whose 
coinage and acceptance were due to changed circum- 
stances and demands. 

Thus equipped with knowledge that enabled him 
to follow the advanced lectures on the Talmud, the 
Bahur entered the Yeshibah. The lectures in the 
Yeshibah were of a twofold character, differentiated 
nowadays at the rabbinical seminaries of Germany by 
the expressions cursorisch and statarisch. The Jewish 
terms are Perush and Tosafot. The former, the Perush, 
is the simple explanation of the text as it stands; it 


concerns itself neither with parallel passages in other 
treatises of the Talmud nor with critical analysis. The 
model for this method was the Talmud commentary of 
Rashi, and as long as the correct understanding of the 
text offered many difficulties, the Perush was the only 
method of explanation employed. With the develop- 
ment of the study of the Talmud, especially through 
the activity displayed in this field by the so-called 
Tosafists Franco-German scholars of the twelfth and 
thirteenth centuries the Yeshibah began to lay great 
stress upon criticism, the analytical method of study, 
Pilpul as it was later called. Here the student of 
Jewish history must be cautioned against a pitfall. 
The acumen and dialectics of the rabbis are not to be 
confounded, as they sometimes are, with quibbling and 
pettifogging. The treatment of the Talmud by the 
scholars of the Middle Ages remains the standard to 
this day, and that too in spite of the admission that 
they shared thedefect peculiar to the whole mediaeval 
world of scholars: very few of them were endowed with 
a sense of historical criticism. Such snap judgments 
as "rabbinical subtilizing," and "rabbinical casuistry" 
are born not of hostile feeling alone; ignorance has its 
share in their paternity. 

It must also be admitted that little attention was 
paid to philology, BO that the great Talmudist often 
mistook a Greek word for an Aramaic, and, hornbtU 
dictu, sometimes would not even be able to distinguish 
Aramaic from Hebrew. But while a little grammar 
would certainly have been of some use to the mediaeval 
scholar, a larger portion thereof would as little have 


made him a Talmudist as it has succeeded in the case 
of the modern grammarians and philologians. 

No less an authority than Noldeke remarks that 
"we modern scholars who approach the Talmud as 
philologists and historians will always remain bunglers 
in this field of study/' This is the expert opinion of the 
greatest Semitist of modern times, who laid the 
foundation for the scientific study of the philology of 
the Talmud. Many profited by Noldeke's contribu- 
tions to talmudic philology, but few followed his 
candid advice not to express opinions about the proper 
method of the study of the Talmud without knowing 
it. With all the short-comings of the mediaeval 
scholars, they knew the Talmud, and their great 
mastery of this branch of Jewish literature is the best 
proof that their model of study was essentially the 
right one. 

The two methods of explaining the Talmud previ- 
ously mentioned were applied successively. First the 
lecturer confined himself for a considerable time to the 
mere elucidation of the text, and later the whole of the 
raw material thus acquired by the pupil was worked 
over again critically. The lectures were delivered daily 
with the exception of Sabbaths, holidays, and Fridays. 
In later times the practice prevailed of reviewing the 
lessons of the week on Thursdays, and the review 
frequently required the whole day and the better part 
of the night. Naturally, a review of this searching sort 
presupposed intense application on the part of the 
student. In general, great importance was attached to 
private study, and every student was granted complete 


Lernfreiheit, complete liberty in the matter of atten- 
dance upon lectures. The industry of the Bahurim was 
phenomenal. They knew too well that there are no 
short cuts to knowledge. Many of them did not sleep 
in a bed except during the night from Friday to the 
Sabbath. All other nights of the week they spent in 
the Yeshibah, permitting themselves only a short nap 
as they sat over their folios. 

The needy student received his meals free of charge 
in the Students' Refectory, the "Bahurim Room/' 
which was maintained by contributions from the local 
and outlying communities. Very frequently the rector 
of the academy, the Rosh Yeshibah, lodged with the 
students, permitting his wife and children to live else- 
where, so that he might establish the intimate relations 
with his disciples which are a characteristic feature of 
Jewish student life. 9 On Friday evening, as a rule, all 
the students dined with the rector, each one being 
provided with a beaker of wine while the host recited 
the Ktddush. This Friday evening meal was graced by 
the presence of the married students as well as the 
others* Those who had already established households 
were in the habit of first consecrating the beginning of 
the Sabbath at home, in the circle of their families, and 
then they would repair to the Bahurim Room for the 
common meal. 10 And as the Sabbath was welcomed by 
teachers and disciples assembled together, so it was 
ushered out in the same way. Habdalah was recited 
by the rector in the presence of the students, who all 
drank from the chalice of the master." 

The holidays peculiar to student life were the 


eighteenth of lyyar, Lag ba-Omer, and the days on 
which the study of a tractate of the Talmud was 
completed in the academy." Besides, unusual fes- 
tivities were connected with the first day of Pentecost 
and the last day of Passover. On these holidays the 
rector of the academy gave a banquet, to which not 
only the whole student body was invited, but also 
prominent members of the community, dignified Baale 
Batim.** But the days of greatest merrymaking were 
Hanukkah and Purim. On those days the Jewish 
student ceased to be "cabin'd, cribbed, and confined." 
For a space rigor and discipline made room for jest and 
jollity. A distinctive feature of the Hanukkah celebra- 
tion was formed by the Ketowes, while the Purim 
banquet was signalized by Parodies. By Ketowes, a 
word of uncertain origin, is meant riddles, doggerel 
rhymes, and all sorts of quips and cranks. Here is an 
example: The renowned scholar Isserlein, one of the 
most learned authorities of the fifteenth century, asked 
his pupil, Yosel by name, whether he knew how many 
candles are used on Hanukkah. "If thou knowest 
not," continued Isserlein, "thou canst easily find out 
simply remove thy mantle." The explanation is that 
the numerical equivalent of Yosel's name in Hebrew is 
fifty-three; and the numerical equivalent of beged, 
mantle, is nine; subtract the one from the other, and 
the remainder is forty-four, the number of Hanukkah 
candles, including the candles that serve as "sextons, " 
Shammashim, each night. M 

In connection with the Hanukkah celebration, a 
Jewish student song, the only one of its kind, has been 


preserved. It is a most remarkable circumstance that 
this secular song found its way into the prayer-book 
of the German Jews, in the guise of a Hanukkah hymn, 
and it could be forced out of its refuge only after centu- 
ries of opposition against it on the part of the rabbis. 
The last two stanzas follow in a rather free rendition : 

Ye waters, O cease 

Your gurgling and dripping! 

We'll take our sweet ease, 

At eve and at morn, 

Where ample wine flowing 

We quaff from the horn. 

The waters that roar 

Your ears set a-tinglingj 

But cease not to pour 

Across your parched lips 

The juice of grapes reddening, 

The wine that smooth slips. 

The refrain of this song is as heedlessly irresponsible 
as only a student can be: 

Marry, marry, go and sell, 

Sell your house, your field, your beast, 

Bring but gold our thirst to quell, 

Bring but gold to grace the Hanukkah feast. 

In spite of this convivial song, the Jewish student 
was a teetotaler as compared with the participant in 
the drinking bouts usual at the mediaeval universities. 
Rarely were complaints lodged against the Bahurim 
for unrestrained drinking or indecorous behavior. Of 


course, here and there a black sheep was bound to turn 
up in the flock, and it happened occasionally that a 
Bahur managed to gain entrance to the wine-cellar of 
the master and drink his fill. 16 But this was an excep- 
tional occurrence, while the description of the average 
mediaeval university student by an impartial historian 
is that "his manners and moral tone generally were in 
many ways no better than those of the roughest and 
most uncivilized classes of modern society 17 ." 

That ill-regulated living was impossible in the 
Yeshibah, is due not alone to the frugality, sobriety 
and ascetic habits of the Jews of the Middle Ages, but 
also to the severe discipline which the rabbis imposed 
upon those guilty of excesses and frivolity. Once, when 
a Bahur flung a dish at the head of the beadle with 
whom he was quarrelling, the Rosh Yeshibah could 
hardly be restrained from excommunicating the stu- 
dent. The master desisted only at the intercession of 
all the other students and after the offender had again 
and again begged pardon of the beadle. 18 The affection 
in which the teachers held their pupils, so far from 
making them indulgent toward the faults of the 
young men, only increased their severity of judgment. 

There was but a single occasion throughout the year 
on which the inexorable rigor of the daily routine gave 
way to unchecked hilarity. That was at the Purim 
season. Indeed, the exceptional character of Purim 
in the life of the Jewish student was so marked that it 
put its impress on Jewish literature itself. While the 
Hanukkah conceits have left no trace, the Purim 
pleasantries of the Bahurim called forth a literary 


species in Hebrew which has a double claim to be 
called original. Not only did the Neo-Hebrew parody 
arise in spite of the lack of a model in classical Hebrew 
literature, but it can hold its own, in point of original- 
ity, in comparison with the best of similar productions 
in general literature. 19 On Purim all was grist that 
came to the Bahur's parody mill; he parodied the 
Talmud, its venerable commentaries, and the prayer- 
book in all its phases. Not even the most solemn 
prayers for the Day of Atonement were spared by the 
spirit of parody. There are even hymns and peniten- 
tial psalms for Purim which are striking testimony to 
the sense of humor possessed by the Jew, especially 
when one takes into account the merciless cruelty that 
held his actual life in its clutches. 

It would lead us too far from our present purpose to 
give specimens of this rich literature. One typical 
example must suffice: The passionate outcry that 
forces itself from the lips of the devout Jew at the close 
of the Neilah prayer: Le-Shanah ha-ba'ah b'Yerusha- 
laim, "Next year in Jerusalem!", runs in the Purim 
parody: Le-Shanah ha-baah kiflaim, "Next year for 
a double dram. Purim audacity did not shrink back 
even before the sacred person of the master. A mock 
rabbi occupied the seat of the teacher, and doubtless he 
permitted many a joke to escape his lips of which the 
rector later took cognizance in all seriousness. 20 

Such innocent play should not deceive us as to the 
real character of the relation between teachers and 
disciples. Boundless veneration for the teacher and 
paternal love toward disciples, these are in very deed 


the distinctive marks of Jewish student life in the 
Middle Ages. When a dangerous illness threatened the 
life of a famous teacher of the fourteenth century, his 
pupils and the members of the community determined 
to fast two days of the week until his recovery was 
assured. 21 A wish expressed by the master was a 
command to be fulfilled with alacrity by the disciple. 
On the other hand, the teacher knew no greater joy 
than to be of service to his pupils. Touching is the 
only word that can describe the brief note which tells 
how R. Isserlein, mentioned above, always divided 
among the students the fish, or wine, or fruit, sent him 
for his own delectation." In the house of the famous 
Rabbi, Jacob M6ln ha-Levi, certain parts of the 
slaughtered animal were not used because there were 
some among the students whose religious scruples 
would not permitt them to eat of those parts. 23 If a 
student took unto himself a wife, the wedding feast 
was held in the house of the teacher. If a married 
student celebrated a joyous event in his family, again 
it was the house of the teacher at which the festivities 
were arranged. 14 

In sorrow as well as in joy teacher and pupil were 
lovingly united. When one of his students died, our 
old acquaintance R. Isserlein was so profoundly 
affected that he fasted the entire day.* 5 In the prayers 
commemorating the dead, teachers were named along 
with the next of kin who had departed this life. 

It has not been without a definite intention that I 
have accorded so much space to these trifling details 
in the life of the student. More than anything else 


they put us in a position to comprehend the reasons 
for the success of the rabbi in the Middle Ages. For by 
no means may the epithet "people of the book" 
applied to the Jews mislead us into imagining that the 
teachersof this people were bookish men. The authority 
exercised by our great teachers radiated from their 
personality, not merely from their learning. Their 
individuality was far richer than their word. This is 
the explanation of their perennial influence. Life can 
be enkindled only by life ; deeds produce deeds. Herein 
resides the secret of the wondrous power of our old 
teachers great in what they did, even greater in 
what they were. They towered above their writings, 
for with their word they introduced us into their lives. 
That personal intercourse with the scholar by far 
outweighs the effect of his teaching is a principle laid 
down in the Talmud 26 and accepted at its full value by 
the later generations of Talmud students. The disciple 
was admonished to observe the teacher as well as heed 
his instruction. Our teachers were not in the habit of 
delivering lectures on psychology to their disciples, 
abstract disquisitions upon the soul, full of superficial 
ratiocination and finical introspection. Their whole 
life itself was laid bare before their disciples all its 
motives and emotions, its aims and errors. The pupil 
observed the master from morn until midnight, and 
his daily doings were no less potent an influence in 
shaping the character of the student than his formal 
instruction and precept. For the Jew of the Middle 
Ages divine service was not limited to the four walls 
of the synagogue or the brief hours of public worship. 


His whole life in its most material manifestations and 
in its most trivial activities was a divine service. His 
workshop, his staff, his table, his household utensils, 
all were instruments in the fulfilment of his destiny. 
How such a life was to be lived was a question of 
fundamental importance, and to fathom its true spirit 
it was necessary to observe minutely the conduct of 
the great. The well-nigh superhuman industry with 
which the master devoted himself to his studies could 
not fail to exercise an influence upon the pupils. The 
intellectual enthusiasm of the rabbis communicated 
itself to all who associated with them. The Bahur 
completely forgot himself, he pursued learning with- 
out thought of a practical purpose, his studies absorbed 
his being wholly and entirely. The only return he 
desired from his toil was the happiness which is 
experienced by the investigator who devotes himself 
with single-minded interest to the study of a scientific 

On the other hand, the rabbi of the Middle Ages was 
not a monk averse to life with its pleasures and 
responsibilities. The Talmud, whose study was his 
life-task, is not a work of abstract speculation ; rather 
is it concerned with the concrete fashioning of practical 
conduct. The Rosh Yeshibah was not only a scholar, 
but also a judge who looked upon the administration 
of justice as the fulfilment of a religious duty. The 
impartiality of the master, his pitiless severity when 
the ends of justice were to be realized, taught a lesson 
which the student could not have derived from the 
dead letter of the book. A pupil of Rabbi Isserlein 


tells us that this rabbi had the sexton make the follow- 
ing announcement before the Kol Nidre service, at the 
beginning of the Day of Atonement: 4< R. Isserlein 
begs the whole congregation for forgiveness and re- 
quests all who think he has done them a wrong to be 
good enough to wait until after the Day of Atonement, 
when he will satisfy their claims. " 27 The narrator goes 
on to say that none was ever known to make a com- 
plaint against the rabbi in response to this announce- 
ment. Can the most erudite lecture on ethics by a 
modern professor of philosophy produce so deep an 
impression as the simple words of the beadle must 
have had? 

One of the greatest teachers of the thirteenth 
century was R. Meir of Rothenburg, yet his success is 
perhaps to be ascribed not so much to his learning and 
ability as a teacher as to the attraction which his 
character and his conduct exercised upon his pupils. 
This was the same R. Meir who for seven years 
languished in prison, in which he had been confined by 
Emperor Rudolf in the expectation of extorting a 
ransom from the Jewish community. Although the 
high sum demanded was raised with alacrity for the 
redemption of the beloved master, R. Meir refused to 
accept the sacrifice, lest it open the road to new 
exactions by the powers that be 28 . A character built on 
such lines of magnanimity and self-abnegation could 
not fail to leave its impress upon the soul of the 
youths under his guidance. 

We have now reached a point which, though it is 
usually ignored, is of fundamental importance in the 


history of the Jews of antiquity and mediaeval times. 
It is the specifically Jewish view expressed in the old 
saying: "Wisdom cannot become the portion of the 
evil-hearted/ ' a9 Character and learning according to 
this view are mutually dependent upon each other. 
Only he can be an original thinker of creative force 
whose character rises above the level of the common- 
place for, to use the words of a philosopher of modern 
times, "Great thoughts spring not from the head but 
from the heart/' This view grew to be so essential an 
element in the make-up of the Jew that for him saint 
and scholar became almost identical concepts. To 
mention but one example of modern times, the Gaon, 
R. Elijah Wilna, perhaps the acutest Jewish critic 
known to history, is celebrated at once as the Gaon, 
the great scholar, and as the Hasrf, the great saint 50 . 
To be creative, mentality must rest upon a complete 
Weltanschauung, upon a view of life that grants the 
worker a wide outlook upon all human concerns, that 
calls into requisition all its possessor knows and can do. 
Information may be useful, but knowledge is power, 
knowledge which permeates the whole man and which, 
transmuted into thinking and feeling, has become a 
live and active force. To impose limitations upon 
oneself does not necessarily lead to narrowness; on the 
contrary, the more the domain of knowledge to be 
cultivated is circumscribed, the more intense becomes 
the power of him who controls it. Here in part lies the 
explanation of the remarkable influence which our 
teachers of mediaeval days exerted. Their knowledge 
was confined within the boundaries of the Talmud and 


the literature growing out of it; but over that field 
they ruled absolute. Their knowledge was an integral 
part of their ego. They mastered it and it mastered 
them, and therefore they were able to exercise mastery 
over others. If they were one-sided, it was with a 
Superb one-sidedness. Knowledge and learning in 
them were moral forces because they were not ex- 
traneous possessions but constituted their real life. 
Their knowledge being a quick force by reason of its 
intensity, it was invested with creative, vitalizing 
power by virtue of which their views spread abroad 
until they became the common property of the people 
as a whole. Jewish learning it was that offered full 
compensation to a scorned, oppressed and baited 
people for all it suffered in the course of tens of cen- 
turies; it was Jewish learning that preserved the 
clearness and energy of intellects which all else con- 
spired to brutalize and deaden. Those who insist that 
the Talmud promotes scepticism and therefore have 
only words of scorn for it, understand history as little 
as they understand the Talmud. 

The modern view that the success achieved by a 
rabbi is sometimes in inverse ratio to his knowledge, is 
correct if success is measured by the amount of salary. 
Our whole history, however, is a protest against this 
theory ; it proves at every point that the rabbi attained 
genuine success whenever the congregation recognized 
the consummate master in him. 

The Bahur who went forth from the Yeshibah to 
take charge of a congregation sought to realize the 
ideals he had learned to revere in his teacher, the 


ideals which possessed the soul of the mediaeval rabbi 
and were expressed not in well-sounding periods and 
well-turned phrases but in acts and deeds. Those 
ideals may be summed up as an identification of true 
knowledge with true faith, a faith not merely meta- 
physical and abstract but of concrete and effectual 
content. The Jew of the Middle Ages was convinced 
that his actions were to be estimated only according 
to their moral and religious worth, for he was animated 
by the belief that God does not view with indifference 
the doings of man be they good or evil. If the Jew of 
average standing and intelligence held this belief, it 
was the distinction of the scholar to verify and apply 
it in the walks of everyday life. He recognized but one 
judge, his own conscience, and therefore he valued his 
independence beyond all things. This feeling went so 
far that when changed conditions forced the rabbi to 
accept remuneration, his principle remained noblesse 
oblige and he accepted only the small salary that 
exactly sufficed for his needs. 31 

It is an interesting fact which has not received 
adequate attention that during the Middle Ages the 
smaller towns were the seats of rabbinical learning. 
The large city held no attraction for the frugal, modest 
scholar. What he demanded of his congregation was 
the possibility of gathering numerous pupils about 
him, and if that end could be compassed in a small 
town, so much the better. Congregations regarded it 
as an honor to have a famous scholar fill the post as 
their rabbi. They competed with each other for the 
distinction, holding out to the rabbi as an inducement 


not an abundant salary but the promise to maintain 
a wide circle of Bahurim. No perquisites were attached 
to the rabbinical office. Instruction was given free, 
without any expectation of reward, and ungrudgingly. 
For, as Ben Sira expresses it and as the Rabbis remark : 
"Man should in this respect imitate the Holy One, 
blessed be He. As with God it is a gift of free grace, 
so should man make it a free gift 32 ." As late as the 
fifteenth century the rabbis refused the fees for 
divorces which an old ordinance set at a rather high 
figure in order to stamp divorce as a luxury reserved 
for the rich. Such fees the rabbis were in the habit of 
passing over to the sextons and the clerks. 33 The rabbi 
paid no visits to the rich or prominent members of his 
congregation; on the contrary, it was regarded as a 
rare honor by the worthiest Ba'ale Batim to be invited 
by the rabbi to come to his house. He thus preserved 
his independence not only of the congregation as a 
body but to a still greater degree of the individual 
members composing the congregation. A man so 
placed could easily forego oratorical tricks. When he 
delivered an exhortation, he could enjoy the pleasant 
consciousness that he was bidding others do what he 
himself had already illustrated in deeds. In point of 
fact, the preaching of sermons was not the affair of 
the rabbi. He mounted the pulpit only twice a year, 
on the Sabbath before Passover and on the Sabbath 
before the Day of Atonement. 34 On the other hand, 
his life was itself a protest against all that is base and 
wicked. He was not in the habit of indulging in bril- 
liant repartee with the ladies of his congregation for 


such trifling his time was too precious and yet to 
have a son or at least a son-in-law who was a rabbi was 
the most ardent wish cherished by every Jewish mother. 

Nor was the rabbi the teacher of religion to boys and 
girls; nevertheless his spirit pervaded every household. 
First and foremost his influence affected the educated 
and learned members and through them the whole 
body of the congregation. In the olden time the 
opinion prevailed that the fathers were to be educated 
first and then the children, not in the reverse order. 
Those were the days when the Jew was proud to be a 
Lamdan, to be one of those who could venture to enter 
into a discussion with scholars on Jewish learning and 
literature. The rabbis of those days did not pose as 
philosophers, political economists, historians and the 
like, but they never lost sight of the fact that being 
rabbis they were the ones to pronounce the final, 
professional and authoritative dictum in re Judaica, 
and therefore due weight attached to their decisions. 

The whole life of the rabbi proclaimed the message 
which a famous Kabbalist summed up in the following 
sentence : ' 'More difficult is it for the wicked to acquire 
Gehinnom than for the righteous to acquire Paradise; 
for Gehinnom is acquired by means of toil and trouble, 
by strife and passion; but Paradise is acquired by 
means of patience and gentleness, by charity and 
rectitude." 35 



A famous doctor of the Synagogue, living in the 
third century, remarked, ''Israel went into exile only 
after it became divided into twenty-four sects." 1 The 
pragmatism of this Rabbi is open to serious objection, 
although modern historians uphold his view that the 
downfall of the Jewish State was the direct consequence 
of the internal disunion. That a united Israel would 
have withstood the power of Rome a little longer than 
a state torn by dissensions and factions is very likely, 
but the doom of Jewish Independence was sealed at 
the moment when Rome entered upon its policy of 
aggression in the East. However, there can be no 
doubt that about the time of the downfall of the 
Jewish State, that is the time of the rise of Christianity, 
Israel was divided into many sects. 

You are, of course, all acquainted with the three 
main sects of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the 
Essenes, concerning whom we have a good deal of 
contemporary information, though unfortunately not 
as adequate as some may believe it. But what do we 
know about the numerous currents and sub-currents 
in the wide stream of religious life of the Jews of that 
period? Take, for instance, the Pharisees; only quite 
recently scholars have learned to differentiate between 
the apocalyptic and legalistic wings of Pharisaism, and 



let me add that even the so-called legalistic Pharisaism 
was not uniform. In the histories of the Jews we are 
told that about a generation before the time of Jesus, 
there lived the two great doctors of the Synagogue, 
Hillel and Shammai, the founders of the schools later 
known as the houses of Hillel and Shammai. This 
statement is, however, far from being quite accurate, 
A critical study of the old rabbinic sources reveals the 
very interesting fact that Pharisaism at its very 
appearance in history, about 170 B. C. E., represented 
two distinct currents, the conservative and the pro- 
gressive. 3 Thus Hillel and Shammai far from being the 
founders of schools, were rather the last representatives 
of the two wings of Pharisaism. Now I have no 
intention of discussing the doctrinal differences be- 
tween the numerous schools, still less those between 
the different sects. These introductory remarks will 
give you, however, some notion of the difficulty that 
lies before us. Our subject is the religion of the Jews 
in the time of Jesus. But of what Jews? Of the 
Pharisees, the Sadducees, or the Essenes? And if of 
the Pharisees, of what branch of the Pharisees, the 
apocalyptic or the legalistic ? And if the latter, of what 
shade, the progressive or the conservative? And again, 
what are the sources which we may draw upon for an 
unbiased and fair presentation of the religion of the 
Jews at the time of Jesus? Roughly speaking, there 
are three distinct groups of literary sources to be 
considered: (1) The literature of the Alexandrian 
Jews, of which the works of Philo are the most im- 
portant, (2) the Palestinian Pseudepigrapha, and (3) 


the vast resources of the so-called rabbinic literature. 
Now, permit me to describe briefly the point of view 
from which I shall attempt to approach the subject. 

All creative activities of nature consist in producing 
new forms of existence new beings and new functions 
by means of new combinations of the given elements 
and the elemental individual. Christianity saw the 
light in Palestine and the given elements from which 
it was created must be looked for in the religious 
thoughts of Palestinian Jewry and not in the Alexan- 
drian Hellenism of the Diaspora Jew. Even granted 
that Hellenism was not without influence upon Pales- 
tinian Judaism and this influence is to my mind of a 
very problematic nature we must not forget that the 
Jew always had a genius for assimilating foreign matter 
by impressing upon it his own individuality. Hence it 
is Judaized Hellenism that might have had its share 
in the mental make-up of the Palestinian Jew, and not 
Hellenism pure and simple. The Hellenism of the 
Diaspora Jew may have been of great importance for 
the development of Christianity in the second century, 
but it can be disregarded in the study of the rise of 

The attractiveness of the new is responsible for the 
exaggerated claims put up by some scholars for the 
apocalyptic Pseudepigrapha as the main source for the 
religious life of the Jew. The most important works of 
this branch of literature came to light in comparatively 
recent times, and scholars are human enough to be 
dazzled by a sudden light. There is, however, no fear 
in my mind that we shall have to wait too long for a 


sober judgment concerning the real value of the 
apocalyptic literature, and this judgment will be 
that apocalyptic Judaism or apocalyptic Pharisaism 
was neither the Judaism of the time of Jesus nor the 
religious atmosphere which the latter and his disciples 

Of apocalyptic Pseudepigrapha it may well be said 
that the new therein is not Jewish and the Jewish is 
not new. Only those who misunderstood Pharisaism 
pure and simple could see in the universalistic and 
Messianic ideas of apocalyptic Judaism something new 
and hostile to the former. The true understanding of 
the religion of the Jews at the time of the rise of 
Christianity can, therefore, be gained from the Pharisaic 
sources which express the religious consciousness of the 
bulk of the nation or Catholic Israel. Taken at 
bottom the nation was for the most part Pharisaically 
minded; in other words, the Pharisees were only the 
more important and religiously inclined men of the 
Jewish people, who gave the most decided expression 
to the prevailing belief and strove to establish and 
enforce it by a definite system of teaching and inter- 
pretation of the sacred books. 

Our attempt must be, however, to derive the re- 
ligious thought of the Jew from the spirit of his 
literature as a whole rather than from formal doctrine 
alone. Of our subject it is eminently true that the 
details of a written tradition are intelligible only 
through the whole. Every member of a living organism 
depends for its health and function upon the whole 
more than the whole depends upon its separate organs. 


So the true bearing of single features of Pharisaic 
literature can be learned only from their relation to 
Jhe whole. 

Pharisaism or, to use the more comprehensive term 
Rabbinism, is inseparable from biblical Judaism, yet 
not entirely identical with it. Without drawing a 
sharp distinction between religion and theology, it 
would be well to remember that the Rabbis were no 
more theologians than the prophets were philosophers. 
As the latter did not reason out but experienced the 
truths to which they gave utterance, so the theology 
of the former is based not upon cold speculation but 
upon warm feeling. The most characteristic feature of 
the rabbinical system of theology is its lack of system. 
With God as a reality, revelation as a fact, the Torah 
as a rule of life, and the hope of redemption as a most 
vivid expectation, one was free to draw his own con- 
clusions from these axioms and postulates in regard to 
what he believed. 

A story is told about Hillel, the great doctor of the 
Synagogue who flourished about a generation before 
Jesus, that a heathen approached him with the request 
to give him the contents of the Torah the main tenets 
of Judaism while standing on one foot. Hillel replied, 
"What is hateful to thee t do not unto thy fellowman. 
This is the entire Torah. Go and study the rest, which 
is merely commentary."* Paul, the pupil of Hillel's 
grandson, Gamaliel, repeated almost literally this idea 
when he said, "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, 
even in this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." 4 

With all due reverence for such great men as Hillel 


and Paul, I am rather distrustful of all attempts at 
constructing an acrobatic religion. One cannot go on 
forever standing on one foot. I prefer, therefore, to 
quote to you the following legend occurring in rabbinic 
literature in many versions, which will give you a more 
complete and vivid picture of the religion of the 
Pharisaic Jew than any learned definition. The legend 
reads: "When God resolved upon the creation of the 
world, He took counsel with the Torah that is 
Divine Wisdom. She was skeptical about the value of 
an earthly world on account of the sinfulness of man 
who would be sure to disregard her precepts. But God 
dispelled her doubts. He told her that Repentance had 
been created long before and sinners would have the 
opportunity to mend their ways. Besides good work 
would be invested with atoning power and Paradise 
and Hell were created to dispense reward and punish- 
ment. Finally, the Messiah was appointed to bring 
salvation, which would put an end to all sinfulness. s 

Divested of its fantastic garb, this legend contains a 
fair summary of the tenets of the religion of the 
Pharisaic Jew. God is the creator of the world and in 
His goodness and wisdom He created man. It is the 
duty of man to obey Him. He has made known His 
will by the revelation of the Torah; God rewards those 
who fulfil His commands and punishes those who 
disobey. But even the vilest sinner can repent, and if 
he does he will be forgiven. Wickedness will, however, 
disappear from among men when the Messiah will 
arrive and the Kingdom of God will be established on 


It would take a dozen lectures to discuss in detail 
these religious ideas in which Jewish legend saw the es- 
sence of Judaism. I will limit myself to a discussion of 
their bearing on a favorite thesis of a famous theologian 
of our day concerning the Gospel. Prof. Adolph Har- 
nack grouped the teachings of Jesus under three heads ; 
they are, first, the Kingdom of God and its coming ; 
second, God, the Father, and the infinite value of the 
human soul; third, the higher righteousness and the 
commandment of love. 6 I have no intention of dis- 
cussing the thesis of Prof. Harnack, but whether we 
accept it or not there can be no doubt that these 
teachings regarded by him as the message of Jesus do 
represent fundamental religious ideas. It may, there- 
fore, be profitable in a sketch of the religion of the 
Jews in the time of Jesus to ascertain what the King- 
dom of God, the Fatherhood of God, and the Com- 
mandment of Love meant to the Jew of that time. 

Any student of the New Testament knows that the 
expression "Kingdom of God" belongs to the religious 
language of the Jew; in Matthew's "Kingdom of 
Heaven" we still have the exact rendering of the 
Hebrew Malkut Shamayim. A feeling of reverence led 
the Jews at a very early date to avoid as far as possible 
all mention of the name of God, and Heaven is one of 
the usual substitutes for it. Hence expressions like 
"Kingdom of Heaven," "Sake of Heaven," "Fear of 
Heaven" and many like them are very frequently met 
with in rabbinic literature. As the term "Kingdom of 
Heaven" is less expressive of an accomplished fact 
than of an undefined and undefinable idea, the only 


safe way to ascertain its actual meaning is to let the 
Rabbis speak in their own language. In what section 
of the Torah do we find the receiving of the Kingdom 
of Heaven to the exclusion of the worship of idols? ask 
the Rabbis. The answer is, In the Shema 4 , the section 
containing the words: "Hear Shema' O Israel, the 
Lord is our God, He is One. And thou shalt love 
the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy 
soul and with all thy might. " 7 The implicit acceptance 
of God's unity as well as the unconditional surrender 
of mind and heart to His holy will, which the love of 
God expressed in the Shema 1 implies, this is the 
meaning of 'receiving of the Kingdom of God/ 

Commenting upon Ps. 81.10, "There shall be no 
strange God in thee," the Rabbis remark, "By this is 
meant the strange God in the very heart of man, his 
evil inclination/' 8 The acceptance of the Kingdom of 
Heaven meant, therefore, the rejection of selfishness, 
which is polytheism in disguise, namely the worship 
of God combined with devotion to one's desires and 
passions. When Rabbi Akiba, who died the death 
of a martyr, was in the hands of his torturers, he 
"joyfully received upon himself the yoke of the King- 
dom of Heaven," that is, he recited the Shema'. 
When asked why he did so, he answered, "All my life 
I have recited the words: 'And thou shalt love the 
Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, 
and with all thy might/ and have longed for the hour 
when I could fulfil it. I loved Him with ail my heart, 
I loved Him with all my fortunes, now I have the 
opportunity to love Him with all my soul, giving my 


life for His sake. Therefore, I repeat these words in 
joyfulness 9 ." And thus he died. The idea of the 
Kingdom of Heaven was accordingly for the Pharisees 
neither eschatological nor political but the rule of God 
in the heart of the individual. 

To conclude our discussion on this point, I would 
add the following remarks on the relation of the 
Messianic idea to that of the Kingdom of Heaven. As 
in the case of all ideas, the occasion for the rise of the 
Messianic idea is to be looked for in the particular 
circumstances of the historical factors which deter- 
mine the genuine originality of a historical idea. The 
material starting point for the Messianic idea is, of 
course, to be sought in the particular circumstances 
of the national and political life of the Jewish nation. 
Israel, in suffering and agony, clung to the hope of 
seeing a scion of the glorious house of David as its 
anointed king Messiah restore its old glories. But 
soon the view changes. The Messiah does not merely 
mean king; he becomes the symbolic figure of human 
suffering from whom alone genuine hope can issue and 
who alone can bear within himself the genuine war- 
ranty for the restoration and regeneration of the 
human race. 

Napoleon on one occasion remarked, "From the 
sublime to the ridiculous is only a step." The truth 
of this saying is best illustrated by the fate that befell 
the Messianic idea. This noble product of the religious 
genius of the Jew often appears ridiculous in the form 
given to it by the phantasmagoria of the apocalyptic 


Pseudepigrapha and the fancies of popular imagina- 
tion. It is, however, time to distinguish more clearly 
between folklore and theology, and I shall therefore 
quote to you the following prayer, very likely com- 
posed about the beginning of the second century and 
still recited in the Synagogue, which to my mind 
represents the Messianic hopes of the Pharisees at the 
time of the rise of Christianity. The prayer known as 
the "Kingdom Prayer" reads, "Our God, and the God 
of our fathers, reign Thou in Thy glory over the whole 
universe, and be exalted above the earth in Thine 
honor, and shine forth in the splendor and excellence 
of Thy might upon all the inhabitants of the world, 
so that whatsoever has been made may know that Thou 
hast made it and whatsoever has been created may 
understand that Thine hand created it, and whatsoever 
has breath in its nostrils may say, the Lord God of 
Israel is King and His dominion ruleth over all. O, 
purify our hearts to serve Thee in truth, for Thou art 
God in truth." 

Here we find expressed not only the universal aspect 
of the Kingdom of God but also the conception of 
religion freed from the idea which represents it as 
serving only the interest of a world beyond and not, 
primarily and above all things, of the world we live in. 
Not that the thought of the world beyond was in any 
way to be curtailed ; on the contrary, the Rabbis often 
speak of the reward awaiting the righteous after their 
death as consisting not in material pleasure but in 
enjoying divine glory. Nevertheless, the development 
of the religious thought of the Jew shows a marked 


tendency to fix the center of gravity of religion not in 
the thought of a world beyond but rather to fasten and 
establish it in the actual life of man on earth. In this 
respect the Scribes and the Rabbis were the true 
successors of the Prophets. For the latter morality 
was the most essential feature of religion, and there is 
an ethically weak point in even the purest and loftiest 
ideas concerning the bliss of future life. AH these ideas 
take into account only the individual but in morality 
society occupies the chief consideration ; ethics is, if not 
entirely, at all events preeminently social. Accordingly 
the highest ideal of the Pharisees was the Kingdom of 
God in this world and not in the other world. The 
position of Rabbinism with regard to mundane morality 
and supermundane bliss is best expressed in the 
following saying of a famous Rabbi. After remarking 
that this world is the vestibule where man prepares for 
the hall, the world to come, he adds, "Better is one 
hour of returning to God and good works in this world 
than all the life of the world to come; yet better is one 
hour of bliss in the world to come than all the life of 
this world. " xo No happiness of this life can becompared 
to heavenly bliss, but the highest that man can achieve 
is living a religious life in this world. 

The realization of morality presupposes, as we have 
remarked, the existence of society, and this meant for 
antiquity national society. Even Plato, in his outline 
of an ideal state, has the Greeks arrayed against the 
Barbarians, the non-Greeks, in constant warfare. The 
Messianic ideal, as preached by the Prophets and 
taught by the Rabbis, is against particularism but not 


against nationality. It is quite erroneous to assert 
that the Prophets hated the state as such and desired 
its destruction because they regarded its very existence 
as essentially inconsistent with that spiritual life 
which was their aim. What the Prophets combated 
was the materialistic view of the national life as they 
combated the materialistic view of the life of the 
individual ; they were strongly nationalistic but their 
nationalism was of a spiritual kind. The Messianic 
hopes of the Pharisees were, as we have seen, univer- 
sahstic, yet at the same time national. The two ideas 
of the Kingdom of Heaven over which God reigns and 
the Kingdom of Israel in which the Messiah, the son 
of David, holds the sceptre became thus almost 
identical. This identification gave substance and 
reality to the idea of the Kingdom of God without 
diminishing its spiritual value. The combination of the 
national idea in its spiritualized form with the universal 
is well expressed in another Kingdom prayer composed 
at the same time as that mentioned before. It reads: 
14 Now, therefore, O God, impose Thine awe upon all 
Thy works that they may fear Thee and that they may 
all form a single band to do Thy will with a perfect 
heart. Give then glory, O Lord, unto Thy people, joy 
to Thy land, gladness to Thy city, a flourishing horn 
unto David, Thy servant, and a clear shining light 
unto the Son of Jesse, Thy Messiah. Then shall the 
just be glad and all wickedness shall be wholly con- 
sumed like smoke when Thou makest the dominion of 
arrogance to pass away from the earth. And Thou, 
O Lord, shalt reign, Thou alone, over all Thy works on 


Mount Zion, the dwelling place of Thy glory, and in 
Jerusalem, Thy holy city." 

We come now to the second head in Prof. Harnack's 
analysis of the teaching of Jesus, the Fatherhood of 
God and the infinite value of the human soul. The 
term "Father in Heaven" is certainly one of the 
greatest watchwords of spiritual religion and it is now 
generally admitted that it was not new at the time of 
Jesus but a part of the common stock of religious ideas 
and a natural element in the Jewish religion at that 
time. I shall not discuss the meaning which Jesus put 
into this common term of his people, but will limit 
myself to quoting a few sayings of the Rabbis in which 
it occurs, that we may be able to ascertain the meaning 
they gave to it. Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrkanos, a 
younger contemporary of the apostles, dwelling on the 
moral degeneration of his age, exclaimed, "In whom, 
then, shall we find help if not in our Father in Heaven !"" 
His pupil and later colleague, the famous Rabbi 
Akiba, remarked: "Blessed are ye, O Israelites! Before 
whom do you purify yourselves from your sins and 
who is it that purifies you? Your Father in Heaven."" 
These and many similar sayings show how baseless the 
view is that the Pharisee thought of God only, or even 
mainly, as distant and inaccessible or as a taskmaster 
whose service was hard. The very opening of many 
Pharisaic prayers, "Our Father" or "Our merciful 
Father", exhibit the steady faith of those who knew 
that they were safe in God and certain of being heard 
by Him. 

The words of Rabbi Akiba just quoted contain not 


only the declaration of his belief in direct access to 
God Himself through prayer and repentance, but also 
the repudiation of any mediator. Every man, says the 
Talmud, has a patron a friend, at court. If trouble 
comes upon him, he does not go directly to the patron 
but stands at the door and addresses a servant or a 
member of the household, who tells the patron, "So 
and so is standing at the door of thy yard." The 
patron has him admitted or he pays no attention to 
him. But the Holy One, Blessed be He, is not so. If 
trouble comes to a man note that the text speaks of 
a man generally and not of a Jew in particular God 
says, "Let him pray not to Michael and not to Gabriel 
but to Me and I will answer him at once, 1 ' as is 
written, "Everyone that calleth on the name of the 
Lord shall be delivered." 1 * 

The methodological error in overestimating the value 
of the apocalyptic literature as a source for the main 
current of the religious life of the Jew at the time of 
the rise of Christianity is fraught with serious con- 
sequences for the proper understanding of the problem. 
In a history of the Jewish religion based upon the 
study of rabbinic sources, angelology and demonology 
would hardly play any important part at all, cer- 
tainly, not that part which is ascribed to them by 
those who see in apocalyptic Judaism the religion of 
Israel in the time of Jesus. The Pharisaic Jew, as we 
have seen, did not pray to the angels to intercede in 
his behalf with God that he might be saved from the 
evil caused by demons, but sought help from God 
"like a child from his father" to use the words of a 


leading Pharisee of about 80 B, C. E. r < that he might 
be sustained in his struggle against the evil in himself. 
In approaching God, the Pharisaic Jew knew that the 
divine rule goes as far as life itself even to its smallest 
manifestation in the order of nature or, in the words of 
the Rabbis, "One does not hurt his small finger with- 
out it being decreed by Heaven 15 " or, to use a more 
familiar phrase, "A bird perishes not without the will 
of Heaven. " l6 

The man who can come to the Ruler of Heaven and 
Earth like a child to his father is thereby raised above 
nature and has a value higher than heaven and earth. 
The Rabbis often speak of the righteous who by their 
noble deeds associate themselves with God in the work 
of creation 17 . The thought underlying the figurative 
language of the Rabbis is that the universe with its 
endless array of life forms and its unchanging laws 
reaches perfection only in the presence of the soul of 
man who, endowed with free will, rises above nature 
by his God-fearing actions and thus becomes an 
associate of God in the work of creation. 

Man as the quasi-associate of God is mostly spoken 
of by the Rabbis in reference to his moral deeds. For 
instance, they say, "He who suffers himself to be 
insulted without taking offence, thereby associates 
himself with God in the work of creation. 18 " This 
leads us to the Pharisaic conception of morality and 
its relation to the third head under which the whole of 
the Gospel is embraced according to Harnack: "The 
higher righteousness and the commandment of love." 


The following remarks of the Rabbis will indicate to 
you their view on morality and ethics. 

I had occasion above to refer to the saying of Hillel 
that the commandment of love is the essence of the 
Torah. More characteristic of the Pharisaic concep- 
tion of morality is the theory of the Rabbis that the 
Tetragrammaton, the name expressive of God's being, 
"I am," stands for love and mercy. 19 In modern 
phraseology the thought expressed by the Rabbis is: 
the moral law based on love does not exist by virtue of 
a divine act or an authoritative fiat; it flows from the 
essence of God's being, from His absolute and infinite 
moral nature. The divine Being, knowable to men only 
in His attribute of love, combined with the endeavor 
to emulate Him in man's finite way, constitutes at 
once the rule and the reason of morality. In the words 
of the Rabbis, ''Because I am merciful, thou shalt be 
merciful, " ao the reason underlying morality can and 
should be the same for man as for God. If God can 
have no reason for morality but the nature of the 
moral idea, the same holds true of man. The principle 
of morality is accordingly autonomous, but its arche- 
type is God's. And now let me add one sentence as to 
the universal character of ethics as taught by the 
Rabbis. A great leader among them remarked as 
follows: "The most comprehensive principle of the 
Torah is expressed in the words: In the day that God 
created man, in the likeness of God made He him!" 21 
In these words of Scripture the Rabbis found expressed 
not only the unity of mankind as an ethical idea but 
also the reason thereof the likeness of man to God. 


No description of the religion of the Jews in the 
time of Jesus can be adequate which would leave out of 
account one of its main features, namely that it is a 
Torah religion. It will be noticed that I have used 
throughout the term "Torah" and not "Law." It 
must first be stated that the term "Law" or its Greek 
equivalent "Nomos" is a very misleading rendering of 
the word "Torah." "To the Jew," Professor Schechter 
aptly remarked, " 'Torah' means a teaching or instruc- 
tion of any kind. It may be either a general principle 
or a specific injunction, whether it be found in the 
Pentateuch or any other parts of the Scripture or even 
outside of the Canon."" "Torah" to the Jew is the 
sum total of the contents of revelation without special 
reference to any particular element in it. Eternal 
truths about God's love and justice, laws and com- 
mandments leading the individual as well as society 
to a noble life, symbolic observances, worship and 
discipline, diverse as they otherwise might be, are of 
equally binding power, having all been revealed by the 
same God. The Jew must embody in his practical life 
the teachings of Moses and the Prophets concerning 
God and man. It is not enough to know; the Jew is 
required to do and to be. aj 

The most distinctive feature of a Torah religion is 
obedience to the will of God. In the Torah as in 
nature the two revelations, for God is the ultimate 
cause in both no part may be denied, even though 
the reason of things and their connection may not be 
comprehended ; as in nature so in the Torah the traces 
of divine Wisdom must ever be sought for. His ordi- 


nances must be accepted in their entirety as undeniable 
phenomena. They are laws for us, even if we do not 
comprehend their reason and purpose. They are like 
the phenomena of nature which we recognize as facts, 
though their cause and relation to each other are not 
always understood by us. And as we endeavor to 
interpret the working of nature by observing carefully 
its phenomena and their relations to one another, so 
we shall be able to comprehend the spirit of the Torah 
by a diligent study of its individual laws and doctrines, 
teachings and commandments. 

Therein lies the great contribution of Pharisaism to 
the development of Judaism. The Sadducee taught 
the immobility of the Torah, the Pharisee maintained 
its immutability, which is not stereotyped oneness but 
the impossibility of deviating from its own course. To 
understand the latter, the knowledge of the entire 
Torah Law as well as prophecy, commandments as 
well as doctrines was an absolute necessity. It was 
this conception of the Torah that saved it from be- 
coming a sacred relic, a revered mummy without 
spirit and life. 

As true virtuosi of religion, the Rabbis knew that in 
religion the non-rational elements must not be entirely 
eliminated if it should not degenerate into a shallow 
rationalism. But they also knew that religion if not 
saturated with rational elements must necessarily sink 
to the level of an anti-cultural mysticism, hostile alike 
to true religion and to progress. The Torah with its 
numerous commandments and laws of practice and 
love, of righteousness and holiness, but also with an 


elaborate system of ritual and service offered them 
a harmonious blending of the rational with the non- 
rational elements of religion. Their guide in life was : 
It is good that thou shouldst take hold of the one, yea, 
also from the other withdraw not thy hand. Obey the 
will of God as expressed in His revealed Torah, try to 
penetrate into the spirit of the word of God, but 
whether you are able to discern the reason of a divine 
commandment or not, your first duty is to fulfil it, and 
its fulfilment will be unto you a source of inspiration 
and joy. 

Conformity to the will of God and communion with 
God are the two outstanding features of a spiritual 
religion. The Pentateuch and the Psalms, the Halakah 
and the Haggadah are not contrasts but necessary 
complements to one another. Of course no one will 
deny that a Torah religion, that is one that lays great 
stress upon conformity to the will of God, might 
become for some a set of rules and forms without 
inwardness or spirituality. But no less undeniable is 
the fact that a religion which overemphasized com- 
;munion with God might degenerate into antinomia- 
nism. The one as well as the other has frequently 
happened and is happening daily. To characterize, 
however, rabbinic Judaism as legalism is as justified 
as to identify Christianity with antinomianism. The 
Rabbis, who after all ought not to be entirely ignored 
in judging or rather in sentencing Judaism, are at least 
as severe in their censure of legalism as the Church 
Fathers in their denunciation of antinomianism. 

The precepts of the Lord are according to the words 


of the Psalmist not only right, but also "rejoicing the 
heart/' It may therefore not be out of place to correct 
another prevailing error with regard to rabbinic 
Judaism. We hear quite often of the yoke of the law 
under which the Pharisees groaned, but little is said 
of the joy they experienced in the fulfilment of the 
divine commandments; JTI2CD *w nnD0 is the expression 
used by the Rabbis. In a passage of the daily prayer 
of the Jew, which was composed very likely in pre- 
Christian times, we read as follows: "With everlasting 
love Thou hast loved the House of Israel, Thy people; 
Torah, commandments, statutes and judgments Thou 
hast taught us. Yea, we will rejoice in the words of 
Thy Torah and Thy commandments forever. And 
mayest Thou never take away Thy love from us. 
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who lovest Thy people, 
Israel."* 4 Can there still be any doubt that those who 
lived and died for the Torah considered it as a blessing, 
the affluence of God's mercy and love? 

With respect to the work of art which we term 
religion, says a modern philosopher, 25 idealization is 
as necessary as elsewhere, and is the primary condition 
of a right understanding for all its adherents, but 
no less so for the foreign student. In rny attempt to 
sketch the religion of the Jews at the time of Jesus, I 
was guided by this thought, that without idealization 
even the historical ascertainment of facts would be 
impossible, at least insofar as such an attempt aims at 
presenting a unitary and spiritual view of its matter. 
Of course I have not lost sight of the absolute necessity 
of an exact study of the available sources. For without 


this latter it would not be possible for the process of 
idealization itself to come into operation; a mere 
phantom would ensue. But I am thoroughly convinced 
that statistics may become as dangerous to theology 
as theology is to statistics. We shall never do justice 
to the religion of a group by following the method of 
statistics and attempting to ascertain the average, 
because there is no such thing as the average in re- 
ligion. As each man's emotions, needs and longings 
must differ, so must each man's religion differ. Each 
man lives his religion in his own way. To gain insight 
into the life of a foreign religion, we must never forget 
that where there is no sympathy there is no under- 
standing. Where there is sympathy, however, it is 
sure to find its reward. 



It was not without hesitation that I accepted the kind 
invitation extended to me to deliver the Zunz Lecture 
of this year. Greatly as I appreciated the honor con- 
ferred upon me, I did not find it an easy task to free 
myself from a deep-rooted conviction that, to speak in 
the words of the great Frenchman, Pascal, most of the 
mischief of this world would never happen if men were 
contented to sit still in their parlors and refrain from 
talking. As a compromise with this strong conviction, 
I have chosen as my subject, " Jewish Thought as Re- 
flected in the Halakah." On a subject of this sort one 
would talk only when one has something to say, or at 
least thinks so, otherwise one would be prompted to 
keep silence. 

To be candid, keeping silence strongly commends 
itself to one who has spent the greater part of his life 
in the study of the Halakah and, believing himself to 
have a good deal to say about it, is at a loss how to do 
so within the limited space of a single paper. It would 
be impossible within the compass of anything less than 
a substantial volume to present an analysis of the ideas 
comprised or implied in the term Halakah, or even to 
set forth the various senses in which the term has been 
employed. It has often been observed that the more 



claim an idea has to be considered living, the more vari- 
ous will be its aspects ; and the more social and political 
is its nature, the more complicated and subtle will be 
its issues and the longer and more eventful its course. 
The attempt to express the "leading idea" of the Hala- 
kah I must perforce leave to those whose forte is om- 
niscience and whose foible is knowledge. What I propose 
to do is something less ambitious than to sketch the 
nature and scope of the Halakah. It is more closely 
connected with the problem of the nature of Jewish 

The Talmud remarks: "He who studies the Halakah 
daily may rest assured that he shall be a son of the 
world to come." 1 The study of the Halakah may not 
commend itself to everyone as a means of salvation. 
Some may desire an easier road thereto; but we may 
well say that he who studies the Halakah may be as- 
sured that he is a son of the world the Jewish world 
that has been. Not that the Halakah is a matter of 
the past; but the understanding of the Jewish past, of 
Jewish life and thought, is impossible without a knowl- 
edge of the Halakah. One might as well hope to com- 
prehend the history of Rome without taking notice of 
its wars and conquests or that of Hellas without giving 
attention to its philosophy and art. To state such a 
truism would be superfluous were it not for the fact 
that the most fundamental laws of nature are often 
disregarded in dealing with the Jews, and their history 
has undergone strange treatment at the hands of friend 
and foe alike. 

If we further remember that Jewish historiography 


in modern times dates from the days when the Hegelian 
conception of history reigned supreme, the "peculiar" 
treatment of the history of the "peculiar people" is not 
in the least surprising. Historians who believed with 
Hegel that "history is the science of man in his political 
character," and consequently were of the opinion that 
there could be no history of a people without a state, 
could not but ignore the Halakah, a way of life that 
was rarely sustained by the power of the state but was 
frequently antagonized by it. What was the result of 
this conception of history applied to the Jews? The 
three main subjects dealt with in works on Jewish his- 
tory in post-biblical times are: religion, literature, 
martyrology, to which a little philosophy with a sprink- 
ling of cultural history is added ; but of actual history 
in the modern sense of the word we find very little 
indeed. History as now generally understood is the 
science establishing the causal nexus in the develop- 
ment of man as a social being. The Jew may well say: 
homo sum, nihil humant a me alvenum puto. State or 
no state, even the Jew of the diaspora lived for almost 
two thousand years a life of his own and has developed 
accordingly a character of his own. 

Modern students of man teach us that three ele- 
ments contribute to the formation of his character 
heritage, environment, and training. What is true 
of individual character holds good also of national 
character. We hear a good deal of the importance of 
heritage or race, to use the favored phrase of the day, 
in appraising the character of the Jew and in the inter- 
pretation of his history. Dealers in generalities espe- 


cially are prone to call in the racial features and 
characteristics to save the trouble of a more careful 
analysis which would show that these racial qualities 
themselves are largely due to historical causes, though 
causes often too far back in the past to admit of full 
investigation. The explanation of history from the 
narrow point of view of race is tantamount to affirm- 
ing, as Hegel did, that the whole wealth of historic 
development is potential in the beginnings of mind, a 
view which it would be impossible to justify histori- 
cally. The lessons of history indicate rather that at 
certain times men of genius initiate new movements 
which though related to the past are not explained by 
it, and that there are various possibilities contained in 
a given historic situation. Which of the possibilities is 
to become real would depend solely upon the training 
of the people confronted with the historic situation. 
Nothing is easier and nothing more dangerous than 
definitions. I shall not define what Halakah is; yet 
one is safe in asserting that its chief feature is educa- 
tion of oneself or training. Accordingly, the Halakah 
is a true mirror reflecting the work of the Jew in 
shaping his character. 

No man who is badly informed can avoid reasoning 
badly. We can hardly expect to understand the causal 
nexus of our history if we disregard the most valuable 
source of information we seek. Here is a plain example 
in arithmetic to prove it. The literary output of the 
eighteen centuries from the beginning of the common 
era to the year 1795, the date of the emancipation of 
the Jews in France and Holland when the modern 


history of the Jew begins, contains seventy-eight per 
cent of halakic material. We may easily convince 
ourselves of the exactness of this statement by looking 
at the classification of the Hebrew books in the British 
Museum, the largest collection of its kind in the world, 
prepared by such an eminent and careful bibliographer 
as Zedner. Yet it is not the quantity of the halakic 
Literature that makes it so valuable a source of Jewish 
history; by far more important is its quality. 

Historians divide historical sources into two main 
groups: (a) historical remains and (b) tradition. By 
the first group we understand all that remains of an 
historical event. For instance, we find in certain parts 
of Germany ruins of Roman castles, places with Roman 
names, burial-grounds containing the bodies of Ro- 
mans, their armor, pottery and so on. Let us suppose 
for a moment that the writings of Caesar, Tacitus and 
other Roman historians treating of the relations be- 
tween Rome and Germama had disappeared; these 
remains of the actual life of the Romans in Germany 
would suffice to establish beyond any doubt the fact 
that at a certain time in history the Romans lived in 
Germany and were its masters. The second group of 
historical sources, tradition, is much less reliable, since 
it is only a subjective reflection in the human mind of 
historical events and can therefore be made use of 
only after a critical analysis has separated the sub- 
jective element of reflection from the objective facts 
reflected. We often hear of the lamentable dearth of 
sources of Jewish history. As far as historical tradi- 
tion is concerned, the correctness of this statement is 


beyond dispute; but of historical remains we have in 
the Halakah a veritable treasure of material. The 
Halakah, as its meaning "conduct" indicates, com- 
prises life in all its manifestations, religion, worship, 
law, economics, politics, ethics and so forth. It gives 
us a picture of life in its totality and not of some 
of its fragments. 

You will ask how it could happen that all the his- 
torians and scholars who devoted their lives and great 
abilities to the study of Jewish history ignored its most 
important source, the Halakah? The answer to this 
question is not a difficult one. The importance of the 
Halakah as an historical source is equalled by the diffi- 
culty of its utilization. Its faults lie not in its substance 
but in the form which the conditions of its growth have 
given to it. It is a system extremely hard to expound 
and hard to master. So vast is it and so complicated, 
so much are its leading principles obscured by the way 
in which they have been stated, scattered here and 
there through the vast expanse of the "sea of the Tal- 
mud/' in an order peculiar to the latter, which is the 
perfection of disorder, that it presents itself to the 
learner as a most arduous study, a study indeed which 
only a few carry so far as to make themselves masters 
of the whole. Hence the favorite phrase that a general 
impression of the Halakah suffices without the study 
of its details* Of course this is a cover for incapacity. 
To understand the whole, the knowledge of the parts 
is as indispensable in the study of the Halakah as in 
any other branch of human thought. 

I do not wish to be misunderstood. Not everything 


that happens is history, and, consequently, the first 
requirement of the historian is to distinguish between 
essentials and non-essentials, between historical and 
non-historical happenings. The individual performs 
countless acts daily which the most conscientious and 
careful Boswell would pass over in silence as irrelevant. 
So also in the lives of nations and peoples, many things 
happen daily that are of no historical value. Not all 
the minutiae of the Halakah are historical material, 
but to quote the saying of an old Jewish sage: "If there 
be no knowledge, how could there be discernment ?" a 
To distinguish the essential from the non-essential in 
the Halakah one must master it entirely if one is not 
to become a prey to his subjective likes and dislikes, 
and we all know how Jewish history is marred by 
bias and prejudice. 

The problem of subjectivity in the presentation of 
Jewish history leads me to remark on another aspect 
of the Halakah, its authoritative character. Writers 
on the phase of Judaism that comprises Jewish theol- 
ogy and ethics in post-biblical times, have based their 
studies exclusively on the Haggadah, which means 
that they erected their structures upon shifting sand. 
Whatever else the Haggadah may be, it certainly is 
either individual, consisting of opinions and views 
uttered by Jewish sages for the most part on the spur 
of the moment, or creations of popular fancy. The 
haggadic sayings of the rabbis belong to the first divi- 
sion; the apocryphal-apocalyptic writings belong to 
the second. 

AH work, it is true, is done by individuals. We have 


nothing beyond the dicta of definite known or un- 
known persons. Yet the great men of a people give 
the impulses only, and all depends upon what the mass 
of the people make thereof. It is doubtless as impor- 
tant for the history of Judaism to know what Hillel 
said, what R. Akiba thought and what R. Meir taught 
as it is important for Christianity to study the writing 
of Augustine, Luther and Calvin. But not all Chris- 
tians are Augustines or Luthers, nor all Jews Hillels 
and Akibas. The great moulders of Christian thought 
did indeed succeed in making the masses of Christianity 
accept their doctrines at solemn councils and repre- 
sentative covenants, but that was not true of the 
spiritual leaders of the Jews. Even if we admit that 
whatever is alive in the nation finds expression in the 
works and words of individuals and that many indi- 
vidual contributions are products of the national spirit, 
there still remains a vast array of intellectual products 
that are temporary, accidental and individual, in which 
the national soul has but a small share. The devil, 
according to Shakespeare, quotes Scripture. But if he 
is really as clever as he is reputed to be, he ought to 
quote the Talmud, as there is hardly any view of life 
for and against which one could not quote the Talmud. 
No less uncritical is the attempt made by many 
theologians to give us a system of the religious thought 
of the Jew based upon the apocalyptic literature, the 
fantastic fabric of popular imagination. As the author 
of a large work on Jewish legends, I believe myself to 
be above suspicion of lacking sympathy for the crea- 
tions of popular fancy. Theology, however, is a rational 


system of religious values and cannot be built up of 
material furnished by fancy and imagination. As 
often as I read books on Jewish theology, and I may 
say with Faust: Ich habe leider auch Theologie studiert, 
the diametrically opposing views expressed in them 
remind me of the following story so popular in my 
native country, Lithuania. A rabbi, trying a case 
for the rabbi of olden times was more of a judge than 
a theologian after listening to the plaintiff, exclaimed: 
"You are right, my son;" and then made the same 
remark to the defendant, after the latter had pleaded 
in his own behalf. The rabbi's wife, who was present 
at the trial, could not refrain from remarking to her 
husband: "How can both litigants be right?" To 
which the rabbi in genuine meekness, as becoming a 
husband and a rabbi, replied: "You, too, are right, my 
dear." I frequently feel like saying to the diametrically 
opposed theologians: What you say is so profoundly 
true and so utterly false! You are profoundly right in 
what you tell us about the beliefs and doctrines of this 
rabbi or that apocalyptic author, but you are utterly 
wrong in your attempts to stamp as an expression of 
the Jewish soul what is only an individual opinion or 
a transitory fancy. 

It is only in the Halakah that we find the mind and 
character of the Jewish people exactly and adequately 
expressed. Laws which govern the daily life of man 
must be such as suit and express his wishes, being in 
harmony with his feelings and fitted to satisfy his re- 
ligious ideals and ethical aspirations. A few illustra- 
tions will often explain better than long abstract 


statements, and I shall therefore present a few con- 
crete examples of the Halakah applied to the study of 
Jewish thought. 

At the risk of causing Homeric laughter I shall begin 
ab ovo, not as the poet did, with the egg of Led a, but 
rather with that no less famous one that, to speak with 
Heine, was unfortunate enough to be laid on a holiday. 
He who does not appreciate Heine lacks the ability to 
appreciate something genuinely Jewish, and I, for one, 
greatly enjoy his merry remarks on that unfortunate 
egg. But grave historians, or rather theologians, the 
majority of whom are not usually distinguished by a 
sense of humor, do not show deep historical insight in 
ridiculing the great schools headed by Shammai and 
Hillel for discussing the question whether an egg laid 
on a holiday is permitted for use or not. 3 We hear a 
great deal of Judaism being a view of life for which 
religion is law. I am at present not interested in show* 
ing the fallacy of this dictum nor in inquiring why we 
hear so little about the second part of this equation, 
to wit: for the Jew law is religion. But if it be true 
that religion is law for the Jews, the conception under- 
lying Jewish law must necessarily be expressive of 
Jewish religious thought. The discussion of the old 
schools about the egg is tantamount to the question 
of the extent to which the principle of intent is to be 
applied. Aetus non est rcus ni$i mens sit rea % say the 
Roman jurists, and similarly the Rabbis: Actions must 
be judged by their intent. Since, according to biblical 
law, food for the holy days must be prepared the day 
before, the progressive school of Hillel maintained that 


*n egg laid on a holy day must not be used because, 
though prepared by nature, it was without the intent 
of man and hence can not be considered prepared in 
the legal sense. As strong men exult in their agility, 
so tendencies that are strong and full of life will some- 
times be betrayed into extravagancies. It may be 
extravagant to prohibit an egg laid on a holy day on 
account of not having been intentionally prepared for 
food. But of what paramount importance must inten- 
tion have been to the religious conscience of the Jew 
if it could assume such an exaggerated form as in the 
case before us! And could there be a better criterion 
of the development of a religion than the importance 
it attaches to intent, the outcome of thought and 
emotion, in opposition to merely physical action? 

Now let us examine another Halakah that might 
throw light on the question as to the relation of thought 
and emotion to acts and deeds in Jewish theology. 
Sin, we are told by leading theologians, consists, ac- 
cording to the Jewish conception, in acting wrongly, 
and hence forgiveness, or, to use the more technical 
term, atonement, is of a purely mechanical nature. 
Originally there were different kinds of sacrifices, the 
sin offerings, the guilt offerings, and so forth, by means 
of which the sinner could right himself with God. 
Later the Rabbis substituted prayer, fasting and alms- 
giving for the sacrifices which, after the destruction of 
the Temple, could no longer be brought. So far our 
theologians. And now let us hear what the Halakah 
has to say about it. In a large collection of laws treat- 
ing of marriage with conditions attached, which is to 


Balfour, suffers not because it has too much of it the 
belief in reward and punishment but because it has 
too little; not because it displaces higher motives, but 
because it is habitually displaced by lower ones. To 
those who maintain the utilitarian character of Jewish 
ethics my advice is: study the part of civil law in 
Jewish jurisprudence which treats of gifts. While the 
ancient Roman law, as has been pointed out by the 
great jurist and legal philosopher Ihering, 1 does not 
recognize gratuitous transfer of ownership, but only for 
value, the promise of a gift attained an independence 
of form in the very earliest stages of the Halakah. For 
the Roman law gift is a sort of exchange; one makes 
a gift in order to receive a gift in return, or, in the 
words of the Roman jurists: ad remunerandum sibt 
aliquem naturaliier obligovtrunt, velut genus quoddam 
hoc esse ptrmiitationis* The Halakah, on the other 
hand, had overcome the egoism of man, and benefi- 
cence and love dictated by altruism had come to their 
full right in legislation as well as in life. 10 The impor- 
tance of this phenomenon only he can fail to recognize 
who sees in the forms of the laws mere forms and not 
the expression of ideas. 

The only point where liberality comes to the surface 
in the Roman law is in regard to wills, and it is highly 
interesting for the appraisal of the Jewish character to 
notice that Jewish law is rather inclined to limit the 
power of the testator to the extent that it prohibits the 
disinheritance of an ungrateful and wicked son in favor 
of a good and dutiful son," It has been noticed by 
others that bequests have psychologically not the 


value of a gift the gift of the cold hand is compatible 
with an icy cold heart; it is not a gift of one's own, but 
from the purse of the legal heir. In the long course of 
the development of the Jewish people the underlying 
bond was the family; the ties of blood were of absolute 
and undisputed strength. Consequently, the Halakah 
is not in favor of any measure that might disrupt this 
bond of union. In this connection I may call attention 
to the fact that the Halakah failed to develop the law 
of adoption, notwithstanding the fact that the Bible 
offers some precedents in certain forms of adoption." 
The idea of blood relationship forming the basis of 
the family was too strong with the Jew to permit the 
development of a law that would undermine it. 

This leads us to the burning Jewish question of the 
day: Are the Jews a nation or merely a religious com- 
munity? Of course I am not going to discuss it from 
the point of view of the Jew of today, but justice to 
my subject requires that we discuss this question from 
the point of view of the Halakah. And the answer to 
this question is given unmistakably in the following 
two laws of inheritance. A Jew, converted to pagan- 
ism, inherits his father's estate; a pagan, who is con- 
verted to Judaism, does not inherit his father's estate, 
whether the father also becomes a convert or not. 13 
The idea underlying these Halakot is that the ties of 
blood binding the Jew to the Jewish people can never 
be loosened, and that, on the other hand, by becoming 
a Jew, a pagan severs his national connections with 
those to whom he previously belonged. There is a 
logical contradiction in these two laws of inheritance 


as formulated by the Halakah. But what is life but a 
conglomerate of logical contradictions? The Halakah 
would not be a true mirror of Jewish life, if it were 
free from all logical inconsistencies. The Jew is bound 
forever to his people, and yet anybody who enters 
Judaism becomes a true son of Israel. 

A little reflection will, however, convince anyone 
who comes to the question with an open mind that 
both these theories concerning Judaism, the purely 
nationalistic as well as the purely religious, are alike 
incomplete and, being incomplete, are misleading. 
They err, as all theories are apt to err, not by pointing 
to a wholly false cause but by extending the efficiency 
of a true cause far beyond its real scope Considered 
from an historical point of view there is no such thing 
as nationalism in general. History knows only a par- 
ticular form of nationalism. It is not the military or 
economic organization of a state which makes it a 
national body but the spiritual idea represented by its 
people. When we speak of the Greek nation we pri- 
marily think of the form in which the genius of this 
nation expressed itself. And is not Jewish nationalism 
an empty phrase if we do not connect with it Jewish 
religion and Jewish ethics, Jewish culture and the 
Jewish mode of life which gave it its individuality? 



We are assembled here to-night to commemorate the 
two hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Gaon, 
R. Elijah Wilna. We wish to do honor to the memory 
of the scholar with whom a new epoch began in the 
study of rabbinic literature, to pay our tribute of ad- 
miration to the last great theologian of classical Rab- 
binism and to draw inspiration from the contemplation 
of the life of a saint, a life of most rare spiritual depth* 

R. Elijah Wilna, called the Gaon par excellence, 
came of a family celebrated for the learning and piety 
of its members. Students of heredity might find it 
highly interesting to study the stock from which the 
Gaon sprang and to ascertain what it contributed to 
the extraordinary qualities of his soul and intellect* I 
shall refer to but one of his ancestors. Rabbi Moses ben 
David Ashkenazi, around whom arose a large cycle of 
legends which are current among Lithuanian Jews to 
this very day and were told to the young Elijah as he 
in turn told them to his children.* 

Rabbi Moses was a small shopkeeper, and when ap- 
pointed Chief Rabbi of Wilna about 1670, he refused 
to accept any remuneration from the community, be- 
ing satisfied to eke out a living from his shop, and 
hence he became known as Rabbi Moses Kraemer, that 
is, Rabbi Moses, the shopkeeper. The members of the 



community thought that the least they could do for 
their beloved Rabbi was to patronize his shop. How- 
ever, when he noticed an unexpected increase in busi- 
ness, he insisted that his wife, who of course was 
managing the shop, should keep a careful record of the 
profits and as soon as she had enough for her weekly 
expenses, should close the shop for the rest of the week. 
"It would be," he said, "unfair competition on my part 
to take advantage of my being a Rabbi."' That such 
a poor business man should have been called "Kraemer" 
(merchant), is not without a touch of humor. 

Rabbi Moses Kraemer was, according to the testi- 
mony of his contemporaries, one of the greatest Tal- 
mudists of his time. Nothing, however, is known of 
his literary activity. Characteristic of the man is the 
witty remark made by him in reply to those whocriti- 
cized him because he attempted to change an old 
established custom. He said : The words of Scripture 
al tifnu el ha-obot are usually translated, "Seek not 
after the wizards/ 9 but they might also be rendered, 
"Seek not after the ancestors*' a play on the words 
abot "ancestors' 1 and obot "wizards." Scripture thus 
teaches us that one must use his own judgment as to 
what is right or wrong and not exclusively depend upon 
custom established by ancestors. 1 This remark reminds 
one of his great descendant, the Gaon, whose principle 
was, use your own eyes and not the spectacles of others. 
R. Moses Kraemer 'a eon, R. Elijah, was one of the 
leaders of the Wilna community distinguished for his 
teaming and piety. He was known as R. Elijah "the 
Saint" at a time when the Jews were stilt vary chary 


of epithets of this kind. 4 His grandson was R. Solo- 
mon, described in a contemporary document as one 
whose profession is the study of the To rah, and 
one is almost inclined to say therefore living in 
straitened circumstances. 5 R. Solomon and his wife, 
Treine, lived in Seltz, a small town near Brest, Lithu- 

On the first day of Passover of the year 5480, that 
is April 23, 1720, there was born to them a boy, their 
first child, whom they called Elijah after his great- 
grandfather, R. Elijah the Saint. 6 The child had an 
unusually beautiful face, "as beautiful as an angel" 
are the words of his biographers, and to see him was to 
worship him. 7 When the child grew older, people mar- 
velled no less at the lad's beautiful soul and his mental 
gifts than they had done at the infant's angelic beauty. 
Even if we discount heavily the stories told about the 
Gaon's youth, there can be no doubt that he was a real 
prodigy* At the age of six he was advanced enough in 
his studies of the Bible and the Talmud to dispense 
with the assistance of a teacher. When six and a half 
years old he delivered in the great Synagogue of Wilna 
a learned discourse taught him by his father. Put to 
the test by the Chief Rabbi of Wilna, the lad showed 
that he possessed sufficient knowledge and acumen to 
enable him to deliver such a discourse without the 
assistance of others. 1 

Lively feeling and clear thinking accompany each 
other much of tener than is commonly supposed. The 
combination of mysticism and criticism, of which the 
< aon it the best example, was inherent in his nature 


and discernible no less in the young child than in the 
ripe man. The tussle of the dialectic athlete* Fecb- 
terschule der dialtktischcn Athlttm Heine calls the 
Halakah attracted the phenomenal mentality of the 
young child, and his imagination was nourished with 
the delicious fruits of the Haggadah "A garden," to 
quote Heine again, "most fantastic* comparable to that 
planted by the great Semiramis, the eighth wonder of 
the world/ 9 The Haggadah of the Talmud led him to 
the mystic literature, and we have the Gaon's own 
words to the effect that he had studied and mastered 
this branch of literature before he was thirteen.* Not- 
withstanding these occasional flights, he remained on 
solid ground. His main studies centered about the 
Talmud, and his mathematical genius led him early 
to recognize the deep truth that to understand a litera- 
ture dealing with life, one must consider facts and 
facts only. He studied at a very tender age mathe- 
matics, astronomy and anatomy. He even contem- 
plated taking up the study of medicine, but was pre- 
vented from doing so by his father, who apprehended 
that as a physician his son would not be able to give 
all his time to the study of the Torab, since it is the 
physician's duty to assist suffering humanity. The 
study of botany he was forced to abandon because he 
could not stand the uncouth life of the Lithuanian 
fanners, from whom he attempted to acquire the 
knowledge of plants* It was a principle of his that to 
understand the Torah one must be well versed in secu- 
lar knowledge, and he tried to live up to it.* 9 One may 
state with certainty that he waa in powtettaon of all 


the knowledge he could derive from Hebrew sources. 
However, not satisfied with these materials, he en* 
couraged the translation of Euclid into the Hebrew 
language/ 1 and what is still more characteristic of his 
wide vision, he wished to see the works of Josephus 
made accessible to Hebrew readers that they might be 
helped by them in their study of the Talmud." 

The sphere of the scholar is circumscribed by the 
walls of his study, while the realm of the saint is limited 
to his soul. The outer life of the scholar and saint is 
briefly told. He married early/* in accordance with 
the rule laid down in the Mishnah, "At eighteen the 
age is reached for marriage." His wife was Hannah, 
the daughter of a certain R. Judah from the town of 
Kaidan, and it is said that for a time the Gaon lived 
in this town/^ returning to Wilna at the age of twenty* 
five. A document of the year 1750 informs us that R. 
Elijah the Saint was granted a small weekly allowance 
from the legacy left by his ancestor, R. Moses Rivke's, 
for the maintenance of those of his descendants who 
would devote themselves to the study of the Torah. 1 * 

Though living in complete retirement, his fame 
spread rapidly. When comparatively a young man, 
thirty-five years old, he was approached by the great- 
est Talmudtst of the day, R. Jonathan Eybeschuetz, 
to state his position with regard to the controversy 
that was then raging among the Jews of Germany and 
Poland* I ha venointentton of entering even into a brief 
account of the controversy between Eybeachuetz and 
hi* cantankerous opponent, Emden. The interest of 
the student of history ought to be in the flower which 


history puts forth and not in the muck in which it 
grew* For our purpose it will suffice to quote a part of 
the Gaon's reply to EybeschueU. He writes: "Oh, 
that I had wings like a dove, then would I fly to re- 
store peace and quench that strange fire, the fire of 
contention. But who am I that people should listen 
to me? If the words of the Rabbis, the heads of the 
holy congregations, are not listened to, who would care 
about the opinions of a young man hidden in his 
study?" 1 * 

A few years later, at the age of forty, the Gaon seems 
to have partly given up his seclusion, and though re* 
fusing up to the end of his life to accept the position 
of Rabbi, for all practical purposes he became the 
spiritual head not only of the community of Wilna but 
also of the entire Lithuanian and Russian Jewry. 17 He 
changed his mode of life in compliance with the injunc- 
tion of the old sages that the first forty years of one's 
life should be devoted exclusively to acquiring knowl- 
edge and the years following to imparting it. 11 The 
first step in his changed attitude towards the public 
was the establishment of a model synagogue* The 
changes introduced by him as, for instance, the aboli- 
tion of a goodly part of the Piyyut and the introduc- 
tion of congregational singing, were certainly intended 
to give decorum to the service and intensify the devo- 
tion of the worshippers. 1 * The synagogue served at 
the same time as a house of study where a select num- 
ber of prominent scholars sat at the feet of the Gaon, 
and though they were a handful only, they succeeded 
in causing the influence of the master to spread far and 


near/ 9 Especially the community of Wilna, the met- 
ropolis of Lithuania, felt such reverence for the Gaon 
that a word of his sufficed to annul the most solemn 
resolutions of a powerful board of Parnasim. When, 
for instance, the Board of Jewish Charities in Wilna in 
a fit of efficiency decreed that no one should be per- 
mitted to solicit contributions, all of which should go 
directly to a central body, the Gaon maintained that 
philanthropy must never lose all sense of humanity, 
which would be the case if all the needy were required 
to apply in person to the administration of charities. 
He therefore not only annulled the decision of the 
Board, but made them put at his disposal a certain 
sum of money to be distributed by him to those who 
in his opinion deserved to be spared the humiliation of 
appearing before the officers of the community. 11 

The incident which more than anything else brought 
the name of the Gaon before the great masses of 
Jewry, not only of Lithuania and Russia but also of 
Poland and other countries, was his bitter fight against 
Hasidism. That the rush of the flood of this move- 
ment stopped at the gates of Wilna and that even in 
countries like Galicia and Poland the large communi- 
ties, the seats of Jewish intelligence, were not swept 
away by this flood, is mainly due to the Gaon. The 
Gaon issued his decree of excommunication against the 
Hasidim on the night following the Day of Atonement 
of the year 1 796. On the eve of the next Day of Atone- 
ment he became very ill and died a few days later f on 
the third day of the Feast of Tabernacles, October 17, 
1797, at the age of 77 years and six months* The Feast 


of Joy was turned into days of mourning for the com- 
munity of Wilna, for they felt that their greatest Intel* 
lectual and spiritual light had been put out.** 

R. Abraham Danzig in his funeral oration over the 
Gaon speaks of seventy books composed by the latter,** 
and the same statement is made by R. Israel of Minsk, 
a disciple of the Gaon. 1 * One who has had the oppor- 
tunity to examine the exhibition of the works of the 
Gaon, arranged by the Jewish Theological Seminary, 
will not consider this statement exaggerated, especially 
if he considers that many a work of the Gaon is still 
awaiting publication and that not a few have been 
lost. 1 * Yet it may well be said of the Gaon that he was 
too fond of reading books to care to write them. He 
was, to use a happy phrase of Doctor Schechter, Der 
ewige Student (the perpetual student) who read and 
studied in order that he might become a better and a 
wiser man. It is quite certain that all the works of the 
Gaon were written before he was forty, in his so-called 
student years, when for his own use and benefit he 
annotated and commented on nearly all the books he 
read. 14 Some of the works ascribed to the Gaon were 
really composed by his disciples, who put into writing 
the lectures and remarks of the master, and are there- 
fore to be used with great care. No teacher would like 
ID be held responsible for the lecture note* of his tu- 
dente even of the cleverest of them. 1 ' 

To one concerned with the study of Jewish mentality 
the works of the Gaon will furnish very interesting 
material. They consist of commentarie* on nearly all 


chronology and archaeology; commentaries on the 
Mishnah and Talmud of Jerusalem, critical notes and 
annotations to the Taruiaitic Midrashim, the Mekilta, 
Sifra and Sifre, as well as to the Babylonian Talmud; 
commentaries and notes on the classical works of the 
mystic literature like the Sefer Yezirah and the Zohar; 
treatises on astronomy, trigonometry, algebra; a gram- 
mar of the Hebrew language; and, last but not least, 
his most important work, the commentary on the 
Shulhan Aruk ' 

To give an adequate estimate of the Gaon's phe- 
nomenal mentality and his lasting contribution to the 
different branches of Jewish learning would require 
more than a dozen lectures Here I shall merely at- 
tempt to make clear his claim to originality. 

Most of the biographers of the Gaon maintain that 
his importance consisted in having abolished or, to be 
accurate, in at tempting toabolish the dialectical method 
of studying the Talmud, i. e., the Pilpul. However, 
one must not overlook the fact that the Talmud in its 
main contents is a structure of dialectics. One might 
as well study calculus without applying the mathe- 
matical laws of equation as the Talmud without using 
dialectics* It is true the Gaon had only words of scorn 
for the** who build the roof before laying the founda- 
tions, if but the study of the Talmud was not for him 
any more than it was for his predecessors a matter of 
a purely archaeotogical-historica) nature, having no 
bearing upon life. The development of talmudic law 
in all of its departments but especially in die domain 
of civil law would have been an impossibility without 


tradition, and the Gaon was bold enough to declare 
that the interpretation of the Talmud must be based 
on reason and not on authority. Yet the Gaon did not 
belong to those whose motto Was, to quote a witty 
Frenchman, Les grands pbres out ioujours tort, or in 
homely English, "Whatever was good enough for our 
fathers is not good enough for us." His admiration 
and reverence for the post-talmudic scholars was bound- 
less, but to use his own words, "No personal regard 
where truth is involved " 3I Criticism involved, accord- 
ing to him, two elements, religious conscience and 
reason. If the Talmud is the great treasure of the 
Synagogue, then it is an act of conscience to bring it 
forth from behind tradition into direct touch with 
everybody Again, if conscience insists upon a first 
hand knowledge of the Talmud for the man who needs 
it for his guidance in life, reason insists upon the same 
thing for the sake of the object to be known. For the 
scientific mind guarantees to every object, great and 
small, the right to be seen as it is. 

With the shaking off of the yoke of authoritative 
interpretations, the critical principle was conceived. 
But it might have taken centuries before it came clearly 
to the light. Criticism was a lost art for the last cen- 
turies of antiquity and the entire Middle Ages, and 
was rediscovered in comparatively modern times The 
genius of the Gaon, however, was so great that he not 
only conceived the critical principle but also showed 
the way it should be applied. Living as he did in an 
isolated world without being in the least influenced 
by the spirit of the eighteenth century, he nevertheless 


evolved the essential canons of criticism which it took 
the best minds of several centuries to attain. 

The contribution of the Gaon to external and inter- 
nal criticism of the Talmud for obvious reasons I 
prefer these terms to those commonly used, "lower 
and higher" are numerous and of lasting value. He 
was the first Jewish scholar to see clearly that ancient 
documents, copied and re-copied as they have been 
for centuries with very little care and exposed at every 
fresh transcription to new risk of alteration, were bound 
to reach us full of inaccuracies 3a He, therefore, before 
using a written source, set about to find out whether 
the text was sound, that is in as close agreement as 
possible with the original manuscript of the author, 
and if the text was found to be corrupt, he undertook 
to emend it. Many a law, many a view of the later 
authorities was thus shown by the Gaon to have been 
based on passages of the Talmud corrupted in trans- 
mission, and they collapsed as soon as the true readings 
were discovered or restored. It would be easy to fill 
pages with lists of happy emendations by the Gaon. 
One may say without exaggeration that a great part 
of the tannaitic literature would have remained words 
of a "writing that is sealed" if not for the ingenious 
emendations of the Gaon. No one down to our day 
has equalled him in the art of conjectural emendation. 

External criticism, however, is only a means to an 
end, leading to internal criticism which deals with in- 
terpretation and examines the accuracy of authors, 
thus enabling us to gain a profound insight into past 
ages The Gaon was no less the founder of internal 


criticism of the Talmud than of external. Plato, 
comparing the power of a book with that of a liv- 
ing teacher, declared that the book is helpless at 
the mercy of the reader. The truth of the statement 
is best seen in the lot that befell the books of Plato 
himself. Students have misread them, carrying into 
them their own wisdom and ignorance, making Plato 
speak a language widely different from his own. The 
same may be said of the Talmud. So long as the tal- 
mudic scholars studied the Talmud only, they could 
not help misunderstanding it. The Talmud or, to be 
accurate, the Babylonian Talmud, is only a part of a 
very vast literature, and a knowledge of the whole is 
indispensable for the understanding of the part. The 
Gaon did not limit his studies to the Babylonian Tal- 
mud but extended them over the entire field of cognate 
literature, to the tannaitic sources that form the basis 
of this Talmud as well as to the Yerushalmi, its twin 
brother. Accordingly, the Gaon had historical-critical 
problems to solve. So long as the old form of Talmud 
studies reigned, there could be no critical problems 
connected with the Talmud because the real facts in 
the case could not force themselves into notice. For 
the Gaon, however, it became necessary to ask for an 
explanation of the striking likeness between the Mish- 
nah and the Tosefta or between the Babli and the 
Yerushalmi and their almost equally striking diversity. 
Following his healthy instinct for facing facts boldly, 
he could not but come to the conclusion that as the 
interpretation of the Talmud must be independent of 
post-talmudic authorities, so must the interpretation 


of the pre-talmudic literature be independent of the 
authority of the Talmud. 33 

The Gaon was described above as the last great 
theologian of classical Rabbinism. Leibnitz somewhere 
said of Kepler that he was not aware of his own great 
riches. We may apply the same characteristics to the 
Gaon. He did not give us a systematic presentation of 
his theology. He was very likely not aware of having 
a system of theology, and yet it would not be a very 
difficult task to cull from his works the material neces- 
sary for a rabbinic theology. And he was the last great 
theologian of classical Rabbinism The classical ages 
of religion are either the periods of great beginnings 
when with all the power of originality they attract all 
forces and all interests to themselves, or the great or- 
ganizing periods when all existing culture is bent into 
obedience to the highest religious ideas. In these 
classical ages great unity or at any rate great harmony 
prevails in the spiritual world. Judaism enjoyed such 
a golden age during biblical times and again later dur- 
ing the Middle Ages when religion was the all in all 
in the spiritual sphere. The Jewish Middle Ages, as 
Zunz so aptly remarked, lasted to the beginning of the 
eighteenth century, and hence the Gaon may well be 
described as the last theologian of classical Rabbinism. 
Though living many centuries after the great expo- 
nents of the religious philosophy of the Jews, Saadya 
Gaon, Gabirol, Maimonides, Gersonides, and many 
others, he is nevertheless a better representative of 
Rabbinism than they. He among all the theologians 
of classical Rabbinism is the least influenced by foreign 


thought, by Greek- Arabic philosophy, and his theology 
has therefore a claim to be considered rabbinic and 
nothing else. 

The central thought of his theology is that self-per- 
fection or, to use his own words, the perfection of 
character is the essence of religion, and that the Torah 
is the only medium through which this purpose can 
be achieved. 34 "The Torah/' I give his words literally, 
"is to the soul of man what rain is to the soil; rain 
makes any seed put into the soil grow, producing nour- 
ishing as well as poisonous plants. The Torah also 
helps him who is striving for self-perfection, while it 
increases the impurity of heart of those that remain 
uncultivated." 15 Self-perfection cannot be achieved 
without hard training, and hence there is a strong 
current of asceticism in the Gaon's theology. 36 But it 
ought to be pointed out that his asceticism is essen- 
tially of a different nature from that taught by the pre- 
dominating religion of the Middle Ages. He does not 
see in the material world the seat of evil ; he does not 
even teach us to despise the enjoyment of this world 
What he maintained is that asceticism is a necessary 
means to self-perfection. Men's desires must be puri- 
fied and idealized but not done away with. 17 In the 
severe struggle between the ideal and the material 
world it is the Torah and its commandments that give 
man the weapons which if used properly assure him of 
victory.* 8 I have quoted these few theological remarks 
of the Gaon because they throw light upon the funda- 
mental principles of rabbinic Judaism. It may be said 


of the Gaon's theology that the old became new, ap- 
propriated and applied by a great original mind. 

Torah, of course, means for the Gaon as for any 
Jewish theologian the written word and the unwritten 
tradition. The Gaon, however, more than any Jewish 
theologian before him, strained the claim for the bind- 
ing power of the Talmud, the depository of the un- 
written Torah, to the utmost 39 So-called historians 
point to this as a proof of the reactionary tendency of 
the Gaon's theology. They fail to see that he set up 
the authority, almost the infallibility of the Talmud 
as a bulwark against the authority claimed for many 
of the post-talmudic codifiers and interpreters. The 
Gaon's directions to his disciples were, "Do not regard 
the views of the Shulhan Aruk binding if you think 
that they are not in agreement with those of the Tal- 
mud. 1 ' 40 In this statement the novel feature is the de- 
nial of the authority of the Shulhan Aruk and not the 
emphasis laid upon the authority of the Talmud, which 
was never questioned by rabbinic Jews. 

The earliest documents in which the Gaon is men- 
tioned, one dating from a time when he was thirty, 4 * 
the other from a time when he was thirty-five, 43 call 
him Rabbi Elijah the Saint, and to this day his syna- 
gogue in Wilna is known as the synagogue of the Saint, 
the "chosid's klaus." It is true the Gaon strongly pro- 
tested against the epithet "Saint" being conferred upon 
him, maintaining that he merely attempted to fulfil the 
duty incumbent upon every Jew, to live in accordance 
with the Torah, and that he only should be called 
"Saint" who does more than is ordinarily expected of 


man. 43 However, the greatness of the Gaon rests on 
the wonderful concentration with which he gathered 
up all the most significant elements in rabbinic Juda- 
ism, the inwardness and depth with which he realized 
the thought of preceding ages, and on the magnetism 
of his personality which streamed forth from him to 
others. The last great representative of classical Rab- 
binism is the most classic type of the man in whom 
deep inner experiences, energetic thought and absolute 
faith in authority united in a close and characteristic 
union. The ideals of rabbinic Judaism thus became 
realized in him. 

There was a certain kind of spiritual chasteness in 
him which made it impossible for him to draw out his 
innermost treasures even for his own inspection, still 
less for the inspection of others. For under inspection 
the stamp of inwardness is apt to tarnish. We must be 
silent on our own internal life or it may cease to be 
internal. Accordingly the Gaon was extremely reticent 
about his inner experiences, and it is therefore very 
difficult to get a clear conception of them. Their main 
feature is that in the study of the Torah and the ful- 
filment of its commandments he experienced the pro- 
phetic fervor, the joy and the inspiration of personal 
communion with God as well as the high privilege of 
serving Him. The service of God was everything to 
him, and he used to say, "Elijah can serve God with- 
out any rewards/' the joy of serving Him being suffi- 
cient reward in itself. Notwithstanding his austerity 
and asceticism, he never experienced a depressed or 
sad state of mind. He always was, as we are informed 


by his biographers, 44 in a joyful mood and in high 
spirits, though his trials were not few. For several 
years he and his family had to suffer actual hunger and 
other privations by reason of the dishonesty of a petty 
official of the community who kept for himself the weekly 
allowances granted to the Gaon from a legacy admin- 
istered by the community. The Gaon preferred to 
suffer rather than to inform the authorities of the dis- 
honesty of the official, being of the opinion that accord- 
ing to the Torah it was his duty to suffer silently. 45 He 
argued that putting a man to shame is declared in the 
Talmud to be equal to bloodshed, and one must not 
cause bloodshed even to save one's life He was not at 
all conscious of the heroic element in his suffering, but 
believed that he only did his duty and he enjoyed his 
suffering as a service to God. He often sold all his 
furniture to assist the poor or gave away his last meal 4 * 
He did it joyfully, holding that a man's duty is always 
proportionate to his capacity, and he quoted the Tal- 
mud to show that in ethics there must always be pro- 
gressive taxation 47 

In these days when the harrowing catastrophe that 
came over the Jewry of Eastern Europe makes one al- 
most despair of the future, it is a source of consolation 
to contemplate the life and works, the intellect and 
character of the Gaon. Lithuanian Jewry especially 
may on this day of the bi-centenary of its greatest son 
draw new hopes and aspirations. A dried up tree can- 
not bring forth delicious fruit ; and if the fruit be good, 
then the tree must be good too. The vitality of rab- 
binic Judaism is clearly proved by the production of 


such a giant of intellect and soul, and in this sense the 
words of Scripture become true, "The memory of the 
righteous shall be for a blessing." 



The following anecdote is told about Rabbi Joshua 
ben Korha, who flourished about the middle of the 
second century. A man once left a will which caused 
the Probate Court no little embarrassment. The will 
read as follows: "My son shall not receive his in- 
heritance until he becomes foolish." The judges, after 
long deliberation, betook themselves to Rabbi Joshua 
to get his advice in the difficult case. As they ap- 
proached his house, they saw him crawling on all 
fours with a cord in his mouth, held by his little son, 
who was playing horse with his father. When the 
judges finally were ushered into the presence of the 
Rabbi, they placed before him the difficult question 
that was the cause of their visit. Laughingly the 
Rabbi said: "I have given you a concrete illustration 
of your case ; for everyone becomes foolish as soon as 
he has children." The testament was therefore inter- 
preted as meaning that it was the wish of the deceased 
to have his son married and the father of children 
before he received his patrimony. 1 

We shall not tarry to consider the legal side of this 
narrative. This was attended to by the parties inter- 
ested in the contest over the will. It will pay us better 



to consider the psychological aspect of the story a 
little more closely. 

In the mechanical world as well as in the world of 
feeling, it is a truth that every primary force is one- 
sided in its action. It persists in one direction so long 
as no other force appears to counteract or thwart it. 2 
Thus it happens that our feelings under strong excite- 
ment carry us along with such force that we are 
impelled to acts which, under other circumstances, we 
should regard as foolish. Rabbi Joshua sank the 
dignity of the scholar in the pride and affection of the 
father that dominated him for the moment. The 
Rabbis teach us this truth in their peculiar way. The 
pity is that writers of history, and especially of Jewish 
history, have often ignored it in judging the heroes 
who have influenced the course of events. 

The law is the same in the intellectual as in the 
mechanical and emotional world. There is no great 
thought that has become an impelling power in 
history which has not been espoused at its origin by 
men willing to put all their physical and spiritual 
powers entirely at its service. Men who produce 
spiritual movements are themselves primary forces, 
their inner natures are filled with a single thought, 
and with this peculiar thought they identify their 
personality to the exclusion of all else, indeed to the 
point of isolation from all else. Our culture is there- 
fore the resultant of a number of one-sided forces, 
whose originators would hear nothing of compromise, 
but which end in a harmonious union, because no force 
is strong enough to hold the field alone. The history of 


facts embraces only the feebler part of reality. To 
comprehend and properly appreciate historical events, 
we must go back to those primary ideas which, though 
never completely realized, are still the only creative 
forces to be considered. Therefore, we must take as 
the starting point of history the records of those men 
who, regardless of actual conditions, in their enthusi- 
asm for one particular thought viewed life through the 
prism of this thought and saw nothing else. 

The essential thing in this world is not to serve this 
or that ideal indifferently, but, with all one's soul, to 
serve the ideal which one has chosen. If we look at his- 
tory from this point of view, we shall have to admit 
that the average and commonplace persons do not rep- 
resent the nation so well as its heroes. On the contrary, 
as has been well said, "The true mind of a people at 
any time is best ascertained by examining that of its 
greatest men." What is true of the general history 
of a people is eminently so in the history of its religion. 
For in the history of religion the experience which 
furnishes us with the needful touchstone is that of the 
religious life, and for this we must have recourse to 
those who have best lived that life, that is to say, the 

Furthermore it is the saint who displays in a special 
degree the excellencies which characterize the religious 
ideals of the nation. In order, then, to understand the 
religion of the Jew and the history of the Synagogue, 
we must make diligent use of the lives of the saints. 

The dearth of biographical material so conspicuous 
in the sources of Jewish history is one of the main 


reasons why it is inadequately understood and judged. 
The most unusual movements of Judaism have gener- 
ally the fewest documents and their most remarkable 
leaders are the least known. The great in Israel's later 
history whom we know best, belong to a set of men 
whom it is easier to describe collectively than sepa- 
rately, whose minds were formed by one system of 
discipline. Only rarely can we gratify our desire to 
study Jewish ideals not written upon paper but upon 
living souls. In modern times such religious geniuses 
were Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tob, the founder of 
Hasidism, and his younger contemporary, the Gaon, 
Rabbi Elijah Wilna, the one the complete embodiment 
of emotion and feeling, the other the personification of 
religious thought. 

In the words of the first father of the Synagogue, 
Simeon the Just, these two men realized in their lives 
two of the three ideals which make the essence of 
Judaism: Torch and Abodah or, in modern parlance, 
religious thought and religious emotion. The founder 
of Hasidism was entirely absorbed in religious emotion , 
the Gaon's life was devoted to the searching and 
explaining of the Torah. 

A life wholly consecrated to the third fundamental 
principle of Judaism, Gemilut Ilasadim, ethics and 
morality, was that of Rabbi Israel Lipkin Salanter. 

The history of the short-lived but very interesting 
moralist movement in Lithuania is practically the 
biography of this man J Rabbi Israel was born on 
the 3d of November, 1810, in the Russian border 
province of Samogitia, in Lithuania. His teacher 


in Talmud and Rabbinics was his father, Rabbi Wolf 
Lipkin, who was both rabbi and scholar. While 
still a youth, he married and settled in Salant, the 
birthplace of his wife. It is from this place that the 
name by which he is best known is derived. Influences 
are subtle things, even in one's own case, yet we can 
clearly discern the influence of two great men of this 
place who, however diverse they were in capacity and 
character and mode of life, left their ineradicable 
marks upon their young and impressionable disciple. 
The one was the rabbi of the place, Rabbi Hirsch 
Braude, who was one of the keenest dialecticians 
among the Talmudists of his generation at a time 
when dialectics reigned supreme in the domain of the 
Talmud. Salanter, as a Talmudist, was never able to 
deny the influence of this master, and he endeavored to 
transfer this system of dialectics to another sphere of 
thought, that of ethics 

Quite different was the influence that proceeded 
from his other master, Rabbi Zundel, whom one would 
be inclined to describe as a lay saint were it not for the 
fact that the Jews have no monks, and to them the 
contrast between the laiety and the clergy does not 
mean the same as to other peoples. 

Rabbi Zundel, 4 though a great scholar, never ac- 
cepted the position of rabbi but was satisfied to eke 
out a living from a small shop he kept, or from any 
odd job that came his way. He even refused to be 
recognized by any external signs as belonging to the 
intellectual class and would therefore dress like a 
common man, disregarding the custom of the country, 


where even the poor scholar could be distinguished by 
his garb. This plainness of dress and simplicity of 
manner were often the causes of great discomfort and 
unpleasantness to him. Once while travelling among a 
rather rough lot of people, he was taken to be one of 
their own class, and as he was unwilling to participate 
in their vulgar actions and still more vulgar conversa- 
tion but spent all his time in praying and in studying 
the Talmud by heart, they decided to punish him for 
giving himself airs. Surprising him while he was 
asleep, they attempted to mark him by singeing his 
beard on one side of his face, and thus disgrace him, 
as no good Jew would ever dare to shave his beard. 
Just as they were on the point of carrying out their 
intention, they heard him exclaiming in great ecstasy, 
"Only one moment more 1 " Observing that he was 
awake, they desisted, though they did not quite under- 
stand the meaning of his words by which he expressed 
his great joy on being able to suffer insults without 
resisting. His great ideal in life was to make the whole 
of it a continuous divine service, and the means of 
realizing this ideal consisted for him in the study of the 
Torah with its strenuous and solitary discipline of 
thought and action. From his master, Rabbi Hayyim 
of Volozhin, he not only learned boundless reverence 
for the Gaon, Rabbi Elijah Wilna, the master of his 
master, but he also attempted to live his life in accord- 
ance with the ideals set up by this austere and ascetic 

The simplicity, humility and saintliness of Rabbi 
Zundel attracted the young Salanter, who never 


neglected an opportunity to be near the master that he 
might be able to see a saintly life with his own eyes 
instead of studying it from books. It is told that once 
when Rabbi Zundel noticed the young man following 
him, he turned suddenly around and said to him: "If 
you want to lead a pious life, study Musar. 19 These 
simple words were the decisive factor in the life of 
Salanter. From now on the driving power in his very 
active life was the conviction that the study of the 
Torah and the fulfilment of its commandments, im- 
portant and absolutely necessary as they are for the 
salvation of the Jew, do not lead to the desired goal as 
long as one does not work seriously and steadily at the 
education of self. This, however, can only be gained 
by a thorough study of the Musar literature, i. e., the 
ethico-religious books. How it is to be studied we 
shall see later; for the present we would remark only 
that in the importance attached by him to the study 
of Musar we can see the indirect influence of the Gaon, 
who declared it to be the religious duty and inviolable 
obligation of every person to fix a certain time of the 
day for reflection and meditation. 5 This teaching of 
the Gaon was made living to the young Salanter by 
Rabbi Zundel, whose powerful impression on him was 
so enduring that even in later life the disciple remem- 
bered the master with the greatest admiration, and he 
described him as "a ladder set upon the earth, with 
its top reaching to heaven." 

"To keep aloof from men and to live in retirement 
from the world" was the highest ideal after which 
Rabbi Zundel strove, in imitation of that great hermit, 


the Gaon. Without doubt they also thought of the 
salvation of their brethren who were in and of the 
world; but they tried to further it by example only 
and at most, in cases of pressing necessity, by rare and 
short apparition. It is therefore not surprising that 
for a time Salanter was in great perplexity, swaying 
between the relative merits and advantages of the 
active and the contemplative life. We thus find in 
him not merely noble actions, but life in the true 
meaning of the word, that is, development and 
struggle. The outcome of this struggle could not 
be doubtful. Preeminently religious, however, as the 
motive power of his inner life was, it was essentially 
of an ethical bent, and hence he could not but come to 
the conclusion "that true salvation can be gained only 
by the service rendered by the individual to the 
community." He became convinced that there is no 
virtue, strictly speaking, for man as a solitary in- 
dividual in the world; that virtue begins with socia- 
bility. The idea of solidarity, ^3n naio, is at the root 
of all our aspirations toward the good. But not only 
morality, religion also in its higher form, he main- 
tained, can be achieved in social life only, and it is a 
false show of self -sacrifice when religious duties are 
performed in partial or complete i&olation, as in the 
cloister or the Bet ha-Midrash. Salanter, therefore, 
came to the conclusion that it was his duty instead of 
avoiding the multitude to seek them out in order to 
enlighten, console and improve them. 

While still in the very small town of Salant, Rabbi 
Israel, at the age of about twenty-five years, became 


the leader of a small group of students and business 
men whom he introduced into the study of Musar. 
His fame as a great Talmudist spread very rapidly, 
and he was scarcely thirty years old when he was 
appointed head of the Meilishen Academy in Wilna. 
It is perhaps not without interest to note the fact 
that his salary amounted to four rubles a week. One 
is almost inclined to believe that then as now salaries 
were often in inverse ratio to merits. One takes it for 
granted that the greater the scholar, the smaller his 
demands upon life. 

In Wilna Salanter found for the first time in his life 
a large field to display his energies and talents. He 
had arrived in that "little Jerusalem of Lithuania" at a 
very critical moment in the history of Lithuanian and 
Russian Jewry. The Haskalah movement which for 
about half a century was struggling in vain to gain a 
foothold in Lithuania, received about 1842 a strong 
impetus through the activity of Max Lilienthal, 7 the 
"emissary of Haskalah" and the agent of the Russian 
government in its endeavor to dejudaize the Jews as a 
preliminary step toward their conversion to Christi- 
anity. It is true that the plain uneducated Lithuanian 
Jew showed more discernment in judging the "friendly" 
policy of a most tyrannical government than did the 
learned German doctor, and Lilienthal had soon to 
give up the hope of ever realizing his reforms. The 
agitation, however, caused among the different classes 
of Lithuanian Jewry by the Lilienthal episode, did not 
abate even when the educational plans of the govern- 
ment came to a sudden stop, and Lilienthal, their 


prime mover, finally recognizing whose dupe he was, 
emigrated to America. Large numbers among the 
educated classes who hitherto had known only of one 
form of intellectual activity, the study of Talmud and 
Rabbinics, began more and more to devote themselves 
to secular studies, preferably to belles lettres in Hebrew 
and other languages, which they found more attractive 
and enjoyable, as they satisfied not only the intellect 
but also the emotions. And, as it is natural for the 
lower classes to copy the example set by the higher, 
Jewish studies and consequently Jewish ideals lost 
their attraction in the eyes of the common people. 

To the credit of Salanter it must be said that not 
only was he the only one among the representatives 
of strict Talmudism who saw the danger confronting 
it, but he was also the only one who attempted to 
protect it against the threatening peril. He cannot be 
said to have been very successful in his main activities; 
some will declare that he failed completely, yet surely 
nobody will deny the religious fervor and sincerity, 
the high and saintly moral standards of the man who 
single-handed attempted to fight a world in arms. 

Salanter, who lived only two generations after the 
rine of the great Hasidic movement that threatened to 
divide the Jewry of eastern Europe into two hostile 
camps, had learned from the upheaval caused by a small 
b \nd of religious enthusiasts two practical things. The 
one was that the preponderance of intellectualism in 
religion estranges the great masses, and the other, that 
*hose who are to lead them must possess other qualities 
besides those of scholarship and saintliness. A favorite 


saying of his was that the Hasidim as well as their 
opponents, the Mitnagdim, err the former in believ- 
ing that they have leaders, the latter in maintaining 
that they have no need of them. His activity was 
accordingly directed toward the achievement of two 
objects, the attraction of the masses of the people by 
emphasizing the emotional element of religion, and the 
training of men who would in the true sense of the 
word be spiritual leaders of the people. 

Shortly after his arrival in Wilna, he established a 
Hebrah Musar, an institute that had for its object the 
study of ethical literature for example, the works of 
Bahya, Gabirol, and Rabbi Moses Hayyim Luzzatto. 
Members of the organization were recruited from all 
classes of society professional scholars, business men, 
artisans and laborers. At his instance new editions of a 
number of ethical works were published in 1844 and 
1845 for the use of the members of the institute as well 
as for others who might take up the study of these 
works if made accessible to them. Salanter was, 
however, not satisfied with the establishment of a 
center for those desirous to devote part of their time 
to the study of ethics, but he served those seekers after 
truth as guide and leader, frequently delivering lec- 
tures before them on the subjects of their studies. In 
order that his work might spread all over Lithuania, 
and likewise continue after his death, he selected a few 
chosen individuals, distinguished by learning, piety 
and high moral standards, to be trained as the spiritual 
leaders of the people. 

In spite of the wide sphere of activity he had created 


for himself in the metropolis of Lithuania and although 
he enjoyed the greatest respect of the en tire community, 
his stay in Wilna was not of very long duration. There 
were many reasons why he left that city. It suffices 
here to state that he wanted to avoid an office which 
it was sought to impose upon him. In 1848, the 
Russian Government opened the Rabbinical Seminary 
in Wilna, and pressure was brought to bear upon him 
to accept the professorship of Talmud. That it was his 
clearsightedness and not fanaticism that forbade the 
acceptance of this office is shown by the result or 
rather lack of result obtained by this class of institu- 
tions in Russia. His sound judgment warned him 
against becoming the instrument of a government 
whose politics were directed to the end of extorting 
money from the Jews to be spent for institutions 
established for the sole purpose of destroying Judaism. 
The opposition of Salanter and many of his party 
to the Haskalah and its schemes was not the result 
of hostility to secular knowledge, the war-cry of 
the Maskilim, but was mainly rooted in the firm 
conviction that a government furthering the spread of 
secular knowledge among the Jews and at the same 
time curtailing their civil and political rights, can have 
but one aim in its mind the destruction of Judaism. 
There can now be no doubt that this was a just 
estimate of the policy of the Russian government at 
that time. With equally fair certainty it may be 
stated that Salanter was in principle not at all opposed 
to secular knowledge. Later in life he counted among 
hi very close and intimate friends the leaders of the 


German orthodoxy, men of the highest type of modern 
education. It is therefore not at all surprising to find 
Maskilim cite the authority of Salanter against those 
who opposed secular knowledge absolutely. 

In the year 1848 he left Wilna and settled in Kovno, 
the second largest Jewish community in Lithuania. 
The close commercial relations which existed between 
this city and Germany were not without far-reaching 
effects upon the life of its Jewish inhabitants. At the 
time of the arrival of Salanter in Kovno, it was the 
most modern community in Lithuania, a real hotbed 
of the Haskalah. When he left it two decades later, 
it had become the stronghold of orthodoxy and re- 
mained such for half a century longer. This change 
may be said to have been exclusively the work of 
Salanter who put his stamp upon the spiritual life of 
this large community. 

It was in Kovno that the development of the Musar 
movement reached its pinnacle. Here arose the first 
Musar-Stucbel (moralist conventicle). The central 
figure was Salanter and around him gathered a large 
number of capable young Talmudists as well as many 
merchants and artisans who were attracted by the 
high enthusiasm and kindling eloquence of the master. 
The energy and devotion of Salanter are the more to 
be admired as his achievements were gained in the 
face of violent opposition. The opponents were not 
only the Maskilim but also many among the represen- 
tatives of the strictest Talmudism. Chief among the 
latter was the Rabbi of Kovno, Rabbi Loeb Shapiro, a 
critical mind of the first rank and a man of very 


independent character 8 . He was frequently in the 
habit of giving a slight twist to verse 19 of Psalm 
135 and applying it maliciously to the Musar-Stuebel: 

O House of Israel, Bless ye the Lord! 

O House of Aaron, Bless ye the Lord! 

O House of Levi, Bless ye the Lord! 

O ye that fear the Lord, Bless ye the Lord! 
There is a house for Israel, he said, a house for Aaron, 
a house for Levi, but there is no mention of a separate 
house for those who fear the Lord, hence there is no 
need of establishing conventicles for them* This bon 
mot shows at the same time the course of the opposi- 
tion which the Musar movement provoked. It is the 
deep seated opposition of the talmudic Jew to every 
separatist movement Against the study of the Musar 
literature neither Shapiro nor his friends had anything 
to say; what they condemned was the forming of a 
society which tended to set its members apart from the 
rest of the community as "the moralists " The opposi- 
tion to the Musar movement and its leader was 
carried on with great bitterness and was not entirely 
free from personal animosity against Salanter and his 
disciples. As to the latter it must be stated that their 
admiration for the master whom they tried to imitate 
and emulate was sincere and profound, but genius is 
not to be copied. A good deal of the criticism levelled 
against the Musar movement had its origin in the 
extravagancies of those whom the Talmud describes as 
"disciples who did not wait upon their masters suf- 
ficiently," they are those who attempted rather to ape 
the great than to mirror them. 


After living in Kovno for about twelve years, 
Salanter was forced by a severe illness a nervous 
disorder to change his abode and settle in Germany, 
where he hoped to regain his health through the 
famous skill of its physicians. He spent the rest of his 
life in Memel and Koenigsberg. In these communities 
new problems awaited him, and, notwithstanding the 
weakened state of his health, he continued his various 
activities. These two cities, on account of their 
proximity to Lithuania, contained large numbers of 
Jews of that country, some of whom had settled there 
permanently and others, especially those engaged in 
importing Russian merchandise into Germany, were 
forced by their business to spend there many a month 
of each year. Salanter saw the danger lurking in these 
large masses of Jews living unorganized in a foreign 
country, with the Jews of which they neither could nor 
would form a union. He set himself therefore the task 
of organizing communities of Lithuanian Jews in these 
two cities and thanks to his untiring energy and 
devotion to his people, he succeeded within a short 
time. He was, however, not interested in organization 
for its own sake. What he desired was to transplant 
the cultural and religious life of the Lithuanian Jews 
to these communities, and his endeavors were not 
entirely in vain. The Jewish community in Memel 
continued up to the great war to be the only one of its 
kind. Its life resembled that of Kovno and Wilna 
much more closely than that of Berlin or Frankfort. 

A plan that engaged the fertile mind of Salanter 
for many years was the popularization of the Talmud, 


that is, first to make the Talmud accessible to the 
great masses of the Jews and further to introduce its 
study into the non-Jewish colleges and universities. 
Being firmly convinced that the knowledge of the 
Talmud is absolutely necessary for the culture and 
religious welfare of the Jew, he could not but look with 
alarm upon the gradual disappearance of talmudic 
learning from among the great masses of Jewry, even 
those of Lithuania, the classic land of talmudic study 
To stem the tide of ignorance in re talmudica, he 
advised the following means: The publication of a 
dictionary of the Talmud in Yiddish to help the aver- 
age business man or artisan among the Lithuanian or 
Polish Jews in his studies of the Talmud, and the 
replacement of Rashi's commentary on the Talmud 
by a more modern one that could be put into the hands 
of beginners. As usual, Salanter was not satisfied with 
formulating plans, but immediately set about to carry 
them out. His plan of a Yiddish dictionary of the 
Talmud, it is true, did not proceed far, for there were 
not enough Talmudists who could and would engage 
in such a work, but the plan of a modern commentary 
advanced so far that he received a promise of collabo- 
ration from a goodly number of prominent Talmudists. 
The spread of the knowledge of the Talmud among 
the educated classes of the Gentiles, Salanter believed 
would benefit them as well as the Jews. He was of the 
opinion that the dialectics of the Talmud are the best 
means for developing the mind of the youth at colleges 
and universities, who might greatly profit by supple- 
menting their studies in classics and mathematics by 


courses in Talmud. A better acquaintance with the 
Talmud by the educated Gentile world would at the 
same time remove many prejudices against the Jew 
and his post-biblical literature, which are mostly to 
be ascribed to the false notion the world has of the 

Salanter's plan was to petition the authorities of 
institutions for higher learning in Germany to in- 
troduce the Talmud into their regular courses of 
study. As he did not master the German language, 
he looked for a man whom he could entrust with the 
preparation of such a petition that would necessarily 
have to contain a clear and precise description of the 
Talmud and its educatiqnal potentialities. It seems 
that Salanter met with some opposition among the 
Rabbis, who looked with disfavor upon any attempt 
at secularizing the Talmud 10 . 

During his long stay in Germany, he became ac- 
quainted not only with the spiritual leaders of the 
Orthodox but also with the many lay members of this 
party whom he tried to interest in his educational 
schemes for the Lithuanian Jews. He finally, in 1878, 
succeeded in finding a wealthy man in Berlin" who set 
aside a considerable sum of money for the purpose 
of establishing in Kovno a great Yeshibah for the 
training of Rabbis, known as the Central Body of the 
Perushim, crarnfln ^^D. Perushim were young married 
men who had left home and family Perush^m means 
those who separated themselves to devote them- 
selves to study. This idea was quite an original ere* 


ation of Salanter as all the other Yeshibot up to that 
time were mainly frequented by young unmarried men. 

As the bachelor Rabbi is entirely unknown in 
Eastern Europe, and maturity is almost a prerequisite 
of the spiritual leader, it often happened that men who 
spent their entire youth and a part of their manhood 
in preparation for the ministry were forced to look for 
other vocations to enable them to support their wives 
and children. It could not but result in the increase of 
an intellectual proletariat the training of a rabbi 
does not tend to produce a successful business man 
and the gradual elimination of the poorer classes from 
the Rabbinate, as only the sons or sons-in-law of the 
wealthy could afford the long preparation. To remedy 
these evils Salanter established the new educational 
institute which enabled the poor Talmudist to con- 
tinue his studies after graduating from the Yeshibah 
by providing him and his family with the necessary 

The sum donated by the Berlin Maecenas for the 
maintenance of the Institute, though very consider- 
able, was not sufficient to assure its permanency, and 
Salanter, though burdened by old age and many ail- 
ments, took upon himself the heavy task of gaining the 
support of larger classes for his scheme. He addressed 
a stirring appeal to the Jewish communities of Russia, 
which was not in vain". The Kolel (Central Institute) 
thus firmly established by him, not only continued to 
exist for a long time after his death up to the recent 
war, but even gained in importance very considerably. 
For a number of years it was the most important 


center of the higher Jewish learning in Lithuania. The 
Kolel bore through all the years of its existence the 
stamp of Salanter by being the only institution of its 
kind where the study of Musar formed a part of the 

At the same time while working feverishly at this 
scheme, Salanter found time and strength to go to 
Paris to organize there a Russian-Polish community. 
The conditions in the French metropolis were not 
dissimilar to those in Koenigsberg and Memel. The 
lack of organization among the Jews of Eastern Europe 
who had settled in Paris was greater and in some 
ways more deplorable than that which Salanter found 
among his countrymen living in the two cities of 
Eastern Prussia. The religious life of the French Jews 
had already at that time reached such a low state that 
not much good would have been achieved by amalga- 
mating the newcomers with the native Jews even if it 
had been possible. 

After spending almost two years in Paris he suc- 
ceeded in bringing some order into the chaotic con- 
dition of the Eastern Jews. He returned in 1882 to 
Germany and there took up his residence in Koenigs- 
berg to continue the work that he had interrupted for 
several years. This however was not granted to him. 
He died there on the second of February 1883 at the 
age of seventy-three and a half. 


In order properly to estimate the essence of the 
moralist movement inaugurated by Salanter, it is 


necessary not only to understand his character and 
personality but also to become acquainted with the 
cultural and religious life of the Lithuanian Jews, 
among whom this movement first arose and devel- 
oped. The Jewish people, as one of the oldest of the 
cultural races of the world, place a very high esti- 
mate upon intellectualism indeed sometimes too high 
an estimate. The older and the more deeply rooted 
the culture of a nation, the more strongly it is impres- 
sed with the truth that "knowledge is power," not only 
material but also spiritual power. This intellectu- 
alism so highly praised by the Jewish people natural- 
ly varies with age and country. For Maimonides 
and his followers in Spain and Provence Judaism 
consisted essentially of philosophical intellectualism 
culminating in love of God and love of man. However 
radically different the Polish-Lithuanian Jew of the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries may be in his entire 
Weltanschauung from the Spanish Jew of the thirteenth 
century schooled in a scholastic Aristotelianism, 
both have this belief in common that it is knowl- 
edge that makes a man a man, and a Jew a Jew. The 
only difference is that the Polish-Lithuanian Jew puts 
talmudic dialectic, in which he is unsurpassed, in place 
of Aristotelian philosophy. The rise of the Kabbalah 
in Provence in the thirteenth century was a reaction 
against Jewish Aristotelianism of the Middle Ages and 
similarly the rise of Hasidism in the middle of the 
eighteenth century was an attempt to aid the emotions 
in regaining their legitimate place in the spiritual life 
of the Jew. In Lithuania, the classical land of talmudic 


learning, the emotional doctrine of Hasidism never 
secured a firm foothold. The form that Hasidism took 
in certain parts of Lithuania, the so-called Habad, is 
more intellectual than emotional. To attribute the 
failure of the Hasidic movement in that country to the 
violent opposition of the Gaon Rabbi Elijah, the 
greatest intellectual-religious genius among the Lith- 
uanian Jews, is to take a part for the whole. His 
opposition did but express the attitude, the natural 
bent, and the acquired traits of the Lithuanian Jew 
who seeks first of all to satisfy his intellect. Reaction 
against the too great preponderance of intellectualism 
could, however, not fail to make its appearance even in 
Lithuania. About one hundred years after the rise of 
Hasidism in the Carpathian Mountains among un- 
cultured and ignorant villagers, we find a parallel 
phenomenon among the sharp-witted Talmudists of 
Lithuania. Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tob, the founder 
of Hasidism, was a person of "emotion and feeling"and 
rejected intellectualism instinctively without having 
intimate knowledge thereof. On the other hand, R. 
Israel Salanter, the father of the moralist movement, 
was himself one of the greatest Talmudists of his time 
and, therefore, although his great heart was not able to 
be satisfied with a one-sidedness of logic and reason, he 
nevertheless could not fall into the other extreme of 
regarding religion as a matter of feeling exclusively. 

The keystone of Salanter f s teaching is best given in 
his own words : man is created to labor and to carry on 
the war of the Lord the development of the divine in 
man and accordingly it is his duty to take great 


pains in the service of God. It is not sufficient to 
follow one's good impulses and to do only that which 
according to one's nature is not very difficult. Such a 
one does not serve God, he might even be described as 
one who "casts off the yoke of God," since he permits 
nature to take its course and does not work in the 
service of the Lord. The essence of this service consists 
in man's moral -religious effort to do things which his 
natural inclinations oppose, and to refrain from others 
to which he is prompted by them. The development 
of the moral-religious personality is therefore only pos- 
sible by the education of self or, to use the favorite 
phrase of Salanter and other Jewish moralists, by 
Musar, i. e. self-discipline. One might as well, says 
Salanter, attempt to see without eyes or hear without 
ears as to expect moral development without self- 
education ; moral intelligence is the result of education 
and is not acquired at will. 

Man does no wrong wilfully, says Socrates, and 
similar is the saying of the Rabbis: man does not 
commit sin unless the spirit of folly has entered into 
him 13 . The aim of education in general as of self- 
education in particular is therefore, according to 
Salanter, to give the reason full power over one's 
actions, for he who does not act as he thinks, thinks 
incompletely. To think rightly and completely means 
of course for Salanter and those to whom he addressed 
himself to square one's actions with one's belief in 
God and His revealed will, the Torah. How then, he 
asked himself, does it happen that people of great 
intellectual power who are past masters in human 


wisdom and in the knowledge of Torah do not under- 
stand and are, from a moral-religious point of view, 
idiots or weak-minded? What should the self-educa- 
tion of a man be that would give him the necessary 
intelligence which makes "the truly wise man," who 
"sees the consequence of his action?" Salanter's 
answer to these perplexing questions is that only 
thought transmuted into emotion has effect on our 
life or, in his own words: our impulses are swiftly 
running currents which drown our intelligence if the 
latter is not carried over them in the boat of emotion 
and enthusiasm. The purely intellectual idea has no 
motive power, which can be acquired only by the 
addition of an emotional and passionate element* 
Though rational life is moral, life as a whole is non* 
moral because the emotions are not working. It is 
therefore not enough for us to form correct opinions; 
we must pass from mere comprehension to profound 
conviction; and this requires feeling; we must be 
carried away. We remain cold even in intense intellec* 
tual work. "A passion yields only to a passion," and 
hence in order that our correct ideas may culminate in 
correct action, in other words that we may not be 
carried away by impulses but act in accordance with 
reason, the mental representation of our action must 
kindle a desire. 

We shall now be able to understand the great im- 
portance which the dogma of Reward and Punishment 
plays in the teaching of Salanter. The precise and 
detailed definition of this dogma, he remarks, is of no 
great consequence, what matters is that we firmly 


believe that there exists after this world a condition of 
happiness or unhappiness for every individual. The 
bliss of the righteous surpasses any pleasure conceiv- 
able to human imagination. On the other hand, the 
suffering of the wicked is such that compared with it 
the greatest earthly pain might be described as 
pleasure. Faith in the existence of God, Salanter 
maintains, is of small value in true religion as long as 
it is not supplemented by the belief in a just God who 
rewards good deeds and punishes evil ones. It is faith 
in this sense to which the Rabbis refer in their often- 
quoted saying 14 : The 613 commandments of the 
Torah were reduced by the prophet Habakkuk to one, 
viz.: "The righteous liveth by his faith." 

We would do great injustice to Salanter if we main- 
tained that self-interest was for him the only motive 
power of religion and morality. If there be any need to 
disprove such a faulty conception, it suffices to quote 
his words in the last essay published by him ; he writes, 
"The road that leads to eternal bliss is to follow the 
path of the Torah and fulfil all its commandments for 
the sake of the Lord. The true service of God is that 
which is free from the motive of receiving rewards; 
a person who behaves in this way may be truly de- 
scribed as "serving God/' while he who does what is 
pleasing to God with the view of receiving reward, may 
really be described as "serving himself 15 /' As a prac- 
tical moralist, however, Salanter could not dispense 
with the dogma of Reward and Punishment. He was 
firmly convinced that there is but one way to correct 
a vice, namely to recognize the dangers it entails, 


and there is but one way of acquiring a virtue, and 
that is, to see clearly the advantages it brings. 
Hence he taught that the first step in self-education is 
the acquisition of the fear of the Lord or, as the Rabbis 
say, "the fear of sin." By frequent pondering and long 
meditation upon the consequences of our actions for 
which we shall be held accountable by a just God, the 
idea of Reward and Punishment becomes vividly 
impressed upon our mind. Only when the idea is 
transmuted into feeling does it become a motive power 
for our actions. These meditations must therefore be 
of a nature to stir our hearts and act on our emotions. 
Salanter accordingly attributed great importance to 
the mode of studying Musar which, to be effective, 
must be different from merely intellectual studies. In 
the Musar Stuebel, by oneself or together with others, 
preferably at twilight when the falling darkness creates 
a melancholy atmosphere, one can surrender oneself 
entirely to one's emotions, one can weep and recite in a 
loud voice those soul-stirring words of the Prophets, 
Psalmists and later moralists on the vanity of human 
life, or give oneself over to reflect in silence upon death, 
which will bring one before the Heavenly Judge to give 
an account of one's life. ,fl 

The sharpening of one's sense of responsibility by 
the means described is, however, only the first step 
leading to Musar, self -discipline. When a person is 
thoroughly permeated with the thought of responsi- 
bility in the hereafter for his actions in this world, 
he has acquired the means necessary for the Kebishat 


Yezer ha-Ra, the suppression of the evil inclination. 
There are, says Salanter, three stages of the worship of 
the Holy One, blessed be He. The first is to arouse 
one's sense of imperfection, the fear that one may not 
be perfect in the sight of his heavenly Father. By 
frequent meditation and soulful study of the sayings of 
our wise men and the dicta of our moralists, this sense 
is created and then one is in a position to conquer his 

Yezer, which finally leads to "the changing of the 
Yezer. 1 ' The Yezer ha-Ra and its opposite, the Yezer 
r0fc,are defined by him as follows: The evil Yezer is of 
a two-fold nature it is (1 ) the sensual desire in man that 
often makes him mistake momentary pleasure for the 
true happiness which he craves, so that he does not 
act in accordance with the moral-religious principles 
which he has established in his mind, but succumbs to 
the pressure of his impulses of passion. The frequent 
yielding to his sensual desires finally produces in man (2) 
an impure spirit or, to use modern parlance, the decay 
of his spiritual energy, with the result that he becomes 
a slave to his evil habits, committing at the slightest 
incentive the most depraved actions. Similarly the 
good Yezer is of a two-fold nature it is (1) moral- 
religious clearsightedness unimpaired by passion and 
evil habits which commands man to struggle against 
the temptation of passion and sensual desires and to 
be guided in his actions not by the immediate pleasures 
which they produce but by their remote consequences. 
By continually increasing his fund of moral views and 
strengthening his power of true reason the (2) spirit of 
purity or, as we might say, automatism of morality is 


given to him, so that without struggle and combat 
he always wills the good and the right. 

The suppression of the Yezer consists first in the 
incessant discipline of one's will-power, in order to 
strengthen and steel it so that it gains perfect control 
over his passions and no evil temptations have sway 
over him. Meditation and continuous practice in 
self-control are the only means of achieving victory. 
More difficult, and to some extent more important, is 
introspection and self-analysis. The suppression of the 
Yezer is not possible without improving "the qualities 
of our souls" and, as no two men are alike either in 
temperament or in character, every one must study 
himself very carefully. Every one, Salanter says, is a 
world in himself, the knowledge of which is the very 
first prerequisite for his dealings with the "outer world." 

The recognition of one's errors and deficiencies is 
thus the beginning of salvation, as without it no moral 
improvement is possible. One must learn to recognize 
with absolute sincerity the secret springs of his acts. 
Sincerity is especially important in self-criticism be- 
cause our judgment of good and evil is not an act of 
pure reason but is greatly influenced by emotion and 
sentiment. Accordingly without deep sincerity we 
should find little to criticise in ourselves; our self-love 
would blind our judgment. We often, remarked 
Salanter, meet with people who are extremely con- 
ceited and vain, though we fail to detect the slightest 
reason for their good opinion of themselves. The true 
reason is that self-love often excites in man so strong 
a feeling of self-importance that he is unaware of his 


shortcomings and deficiencies, while those of his 
neighbor are seen clearly by him. Salanter even goes a 
step further and maintains that absolute truth can be 
attained only in the field of material facts directly 
provable or in the domain of science demonstrable by 
the methods of logic, while in our moral judgment 
there is always an element of feeling. In self-criticism 
our main effort must be directed toward eliminating or 
at least reducing to a minimum this element of self- 
love and turning our scrutiny upon ourselves in the 
same way that we would exercise our criticism upon 

4 Our critical abilities should be directed toward our 
own actions not toward the actions of our fellow-men. 
We all have an amazingly critical keenness when it 
is a case of picking to pieces, not our own conduct, but 
that of our neighbor. We should search again and 
again the depths of ourselves in the midst of our 
restless life; we must criticise and correct our actions 
without pity. We must not allow ourselves to rest on 
the laurels that we award to ourselves or that others 
too easily bestow upon us, but should utilize the time 
rather in self-criticism. 

As we devote ourselves to the cultivation of our 
intellectual powers, so we must pay heed to the 
development of our moral potentialities. Salanter 
established the rule among his disciples that each 
should associate himself intimately with one of his 
fellows for the purpose of observing and being observed 
and exchanging friendly cautions and admonitions. 


In this way all would attain to the self-knowledge 
that corrects conduct. 

The discovery of our faults will not discourage us if 
we look to the future instead of to the past. Repent- 
ance was indeed a doctrine upon which he laid great 
stress, yet for him as for nearly all Jewish theologians 
and moralists, repentance is not remorse for the past 
but a serious attempt to profit in the future by the 
lessons of the past. When he spoke to the people he 
was in the habit of making them recite with religious 
fervor the verse from Lamentations, "Turn Thou us 
unto Thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned. "Return 
to God" is the Jewish conception of repentance, and 
while Salanter was hammering into the minds of the 
people the great need of self-criticism, that they might 
be able to change their lives and return to God, he was 
no less indefatigable in preaching courage. No ailment 
of the soul, he says, is worse than discouragement; 
man must again and again renew the idea of courage 
in his mind. He must not become discouraged if he 
fails to observe any improvement in his moral quali- 
ties after long labor of self-discipline. He should know 
that his work was not in vain but has left its beneficial 
effects which, though invisible at the moment, will 
become visible in time. Drops of water continually 
falling upon a rock will finally wear it away though the 
first drops seem to produce no effect at all. It is the 
same with self-discipline; its effects cannot fail to 
penetrate our hearts if we practise it continually. 

Another form of discouragement against which 
Salanter warns us is that which has its source in the 


exaggerated importance attached to the influence of 
heredity; he writes: "One should not say what the 
Lord made cannot be changed; He planted in me an 
evil nature, how can I hope ever to unmake it?" It is 
not so; man is not only master over the qualities of the 
soul with which he is born but he is also able to change 

We all know how great the power of man over 
animals has been; he has succeeded in imposing his 
will upon them so that not only originally wild and 
ferocious animals have lost their ferocity but many 
species have also been tamed and their natures 
changed. The same applies to man ; he not only can 
suppress his passions and impulses but he can also 
change his nature from evil to good by constant study 
and practice. One must remember further that in the 
worst of men there is something good and the best are 
not without a touch of depravity. Hence self-educa- 
tion is the main factor in our development. 

Salanter in almost every address was in the habit 
of quoting the verse from Proverbs: "If thou seekest 
(wisdom) as silver and searchest for her as for hidden 
treasures. ..." The burden of all his exhortations was 
that the moral life of man is like the flight of a bird in 
the air; he is sustained only by effort and when he 
ceases to exert himself he falls. 

Moral effort or, to use his own term, the suppression 
of the evil Yezer, important as it may be, is, however, 
only the prelude to Tikkun ha-Mtddot, the improvement 
of character, by which he meant the reduction of virtue 
to a second nature. Moral effort is the negative part of 


self-education, which must finally lead to the positive, 
viz. the entire change of our impulses and inclinations, 
our passions and desires. We draw nearer to the ideal 
by always thinking of it, by examining everything in 
its light. The continuous effort, however, is fatiguing, 
and therefore when swept by great passions, we are 
unable to withstand them though we thought we had 
gained control over our will. Accordingly our only 
safeguard lies in moral knowledge which must be 
sufficiently clear to lay hold on us and carry us away; 
this knowledge must become a passion with us so that 
we act automatically under its imperious injunction. 
Impressions upon our emotions such as may be pro- 
duced by the realization of retribution after death, 
though they may tend to weaken certain passions 
and impulses, are not able to change them. Their 
change can be accomplished only by means of knowl- 
edge. We must make ourselves the object of contem- 
plation and, dissecting the stirrings of our hearts, seek 
to comprehend their complicated machinery. Then 
and then only will virtue become instinctive in us, so 
that even our unconscious actions will be directed by 
it. We must not forget that it is our less conscious 
thoughts and our less conscious actions which mainly 
mould our lives 

There are two forms, says Salanter, of intellectual 
knowledge. The child, for instance, who has just 
learned his alphabet has great difficulty in combining 
the letters though he knows well their individual 
sounds. After exercising for some time he is able to 
read fluently without being in the least conscious of 


the single letters and their functions. The same holds 
good in moral knowledge. For a time we must practise 
increasing the power of our will over our passions until 
we become so accustomed to virtue that we perform it 
unconsciously without being aware of any effort. This 
will happen when our moral ideals become sentiments 
by reason of being impressed upon our understanding. 
The truth of this view Salanter attempted to prove in 
quite a homely way. He writes: ''In our country 
Lithuania the average Jew has trained himself in the 
observance of the dietary laws to such an extent that 
without any effort he not only abstains from the use of 
prohibited food but even abhors it On the other 
hand, dishonesty in commercial relations is a frequent 
occurrence. Many do not trouble themselves to find 
out whether their dealings with their fellow men are 
always honest, and not a few will even attempt to 
cover their dishonest actions when they are found out. 
Now when we ask, how does it happen that the 
ceremonial law is automatically observed at great 
sacrifice of comfort and money, while the ethical is 
often disregarded a sin which according to the 
Rabbis neither the Day of Atonement nor death can 
atone 16 we can give only this answer: The long 
training of the Jew, theoretically and practically, in 
the observance of the dietary laws has had the result 
that in following his own nature he feels an abhorrence 
for everything ritually unclean, while the ethical teach- 
ings of the Torah theoretically never formed such an 
important part of the body of Jewish studies as the 
dietary laws, and practically did not offer themselves 


as an exercise in virtue but as something convenient 
and useful. This, however, is greatly to be regretted; 
the ethical teachings of the Torah are a most impor- 
tant part thereof, and in practical life we must train 
ourselves so that we may no longer obey the dicta of 
morality reluctantly as a severe rule, but that we may 
follow them with the natural bent of our desires." 

Great care, however, must be taken that the autom- 
atism of virtue is not turned to that obnoxious form of 
stoicism which makes man indifferent to the desires 
and needs of his fellow man. Equanimity and calm- 
ness of temper and mind, says Salanter, is a great 
virtue; we must never allow ourselves to be ruffled 
even when the greatest misfortunes befall us. 'Trust 
in God," the religious term for this virtue, is, however, 
an abominable sin if applied to shift from us our 
obligations towards our fellow men; one must not 
trust in God at the expense of those who seek our help. 
Humility is not only a virtue but a demand of common 
sense, as it is absurd to be proud of a superiority that 
we owe to the chance of birth or the munificence of 
Providence; and as to vanity, Salanter could only see 
in it the most grotesque trait of character. Yet he 
admonishes us to be very careful of the susceptibilities 
of others and never fail to pay them our respects in the 
forms established by society. Withdrawing ourselves 
from social life is very commendable if it affects only 
ourselves, but it is the foremost duty of man "to go 
among the people" and associate closely with them 
for the benefit and the good of our fellow men. Conse- 
quently the positive part of self -education consists not 


only in acquiring virtue as an instinct, but also in 
studying to comprehend and understand the desires 
and impulses of men, so that we may be able to feel 
their sufferings and wants. The task of combining 
these two opposites is hard but not impossible. 

In spite of Salanter's originality, he has not given 
us a new system of ethics. He lacked philosophic 
training and systematic ability. His importance 
consists mainly in this that he emphasized and sought 
to put into their proper light certain aspects of 
Judaism which previously had been heeded but little 
or not at all. 

The keynote of his teaching is that the aim and 
task of the Jew is to strive to secure the ethically ideal 
condition of man and of the world, no matter how far 
off and perhaps unreachable it may be. Judaism is for 
him no theoretical system, teaching speculative truths 
or scientific knowledge concerning a certain province 
of thought, but it is a doctrine intended to lead man 
to his moral ennoblement by prescribed ways and 
means. So far as the moral life is concerned the 
concrete plays a preponderating and decisive part. On 
the other hand it cannot dispense with speculative or, 
let us rather say, religious truths. In fact, it requires 
some religious truths as a support and a guarantee for 
the binding force of the moral law. Other religious 
truths, again, strengthen the will, or are of spiritual 
value in moral development, because they fuse to- 
gether practice and theory into a harmonious unity. 
If morality is to be not merely a theory but a real 
factor in the life of man, he must so train his thoughts 


and feelings that his moral consciousness becomes too 
strong to allow him to act otherwise than morally. 
The religious truths which are indispensable to the 
ethical education of man and without which he cannot 
develop morally, are: Belief in God, Revelation, and 
Reward and Punishment. 

We have seen above what important r&le the doc- 
trine of Reward and Punishment plays in his teach- 
ings, and we may add here that Revelation or, to use 
the rabbinical term, the Torah is of still greater 
consequence. In his public addresses, Salanter hardly 
ever touched on any other subject than ethics and the 
study of the Torah. The latter is to be considered 
from two different angles. First, as the revealed will 
of God, it is the only safe guide for our religious and 
moral life. Hence the duty incumbent upon every one, 
not only on the professional scholar, to occupy himself 
with the study of the Torah that his conduct may 
always be in accordance with the divine Will. The 
study of the Jewish civil code however, to take one 
instance, is a religious work not only because it enables 
the student to know what is right and what is wrong 
in a given case, but also because it refines and deepens, 
one's conscience. Consequently, strange as it may 
sound, it is from the point of view of religion more 
important for the business man than for the Rabbi 
the judge to be thoroughly acquainted with the civil 
code. The former is often tempted to dishonesty, and 
by continuous study of the commercial law of the 
Torah he will be in a better position to withstand his 
temptations, of which the Rabbi is innocent. Besides 


the practical parts of the Torah, the study of any 
portion thereof is a remedy against the Yezer. "The 
spirit emanating from the Torah makes spiritual him 
who occupies himself with it." 

It would be underrating the importance of Salanter 
to measure him only by the standard of his theories 
on ethics. Of him, as in general of all Jewish moralists, 
it may be said that the practical produced the theore- 
tical, and not vice versa. The ethical system of the 
Greeks developed at a time when rapidly growing 
skepticism threatened to destroy the basis of morality 
and in part did actually destroy it. The ethical 
systems framed in those days were the dikes erected 
by speculative minds to hold in check the devastating 
flood of immorality. Compare this phenomenon with 
the long and eventful history of the Jews, and it will 
become evident that with them there was nothing 
certain and absolute except God. the source of moral 
truth. When all things round about tottered and 
reeled, there always remained one fixed immovable 
point, that God is good, holy and just, and that it is 
the duty of man to walk in His ways, the ways of 
holiness, justice and love. The Jewish moralists, 
therefore, considered it their chief task not to elaborate 
new doctrines and speculative truths, but to impress 
the old lessons with ever greater emphasis upon the 
consciousness of the people. Their aim was to find 
means of augmenting the effectiveness of the old 
truths. And as they always proceeded from the prin- 
ciple that the most successful pedagogic method is 
teaching by example, they tried to illustrate in their 


own conduct the truths they wished to inculcate. The 
Jewish moralists, so far from setting up ideal teachings 
for the sake of setting them up, demonstrated con- 
cretely how the ideal can be made real in the daily 
walks of life. 


It has been well said that a man of rare moral 
depth, warmth or delicacy may be a more important 
element in the advance of civilization than the newest 
and truest idea derived from the fundamental prin- 
ciples of the science of morals. The leading of souls to 
do what is right and humane is always more urgent 
than mere instruction of the intelligence as to the exact 
meaning of right and humanity. If therefore the saint 
has his place in history, Salanter is one of the outstand- 
ing figures in Jewish history of recent times. What 
most appeals to our imagination and sympathy in his- 
tory is heroism, and saintlmess is only another word 
for heroism in the domain of ethics and religion. The 
heroism of the saint is well described by the famous 
French critic, Samte Beuve, as an inner state which 
above all is one of love and humility, of infinite con- 
fidence in God, and of strictness toward one's self 
accompanied with tenderness for others. Saintliness is 
however at the same time preeminently subjective, 
mainly on account of the great diversity of the means 
which help to produce the state common to all saints. 
The glimpses we gain of the life of a saint are therefore 
of incalculable value to us for the understanding of the 
religious milieu that produced him. Salanter, for 


instance, was the product of rigorous Talmudism, and 
hence to become better acquainted with his heroic life 
is tantamount to coming nearer to a true understand- 
ing of talmudic Judaism. Purity, asceticism and 
charity are the characteristic practical consequences of 
the inner conditions of all saintly souls; the forms, 
however, in which these virtues express themselves 
vary essentially, and the variation is a safe indication 
of the culture amidst which the saint arose. 

Boundless reverence for the weak and the suffering, 
the helpless and the needy, best describe the particular 
form that Salanter's love for his fellow man took. The 
Lord I4 dwells with him that is of a contrite and humble 
spirit," hence Salanter felt himself in the presence of 
the divine whenever he saw suffering and pain that 
produce a meek and contrite spirit. His religious 
enthusiasm, that is his love of God, instead of quench- 
ing his love of man, ennobled and transformed it. Too 
numerous are the stories told about Salanter 's kind- 
ness and goodness to be given here ; a very few charac- 
teristics of the saint, may however, be mentioned. 

During his sojourn in Kovno it happened on the eve 
of Yom Kippur, when the Synagogue was filled with 
devout worshippers awaiting in solemn awe and 
silence the Kol Nidre service, that suddenly ominous 
murmurs and whispers arose on all sides. Salanter, 
wonderful to relate, had not yet arrived. The as- 
sembly waited half-an-hour and an hour, and still no 
trace of the Rabbi. Messengers were sent hither and 
thither to search for him. All returned from then 
errand unsuccessful. After long waiting and watching, 


it was resolved to begin the prayers without Salanter, 
a course calculated to increase the excitement. All 
sorts of probable and improbable rumors were circu- 
lated about the sudden disappearance of the beloved 
leader. When the congregation was on the point of 
dispersing, Salanter appeared in the Synagogue. The 
joy was great, and equally great was the amazement of 
the good people when they learned the reason of his 
absence. On his way to the Synagogue, Salanter told 
them, he heard a little child cry bitterly. He drew 
near to investigate why it was whimpering and found 
that the baby's mother, in order to be at the Synagogue 
in good time on this holiest of occasions, had put it to 
bed earlier than her wont The child had soon awak- 
ened from sleep at an unaccustomed hour and was 
crying for its mother. As none of the women in the 
neighborhood signified her willingness to forego at- 
tendance at divine services upon the Holy Kol Nidre 
night, he resolved to stay beside the baby's cradle 
until its mother returned To appreciate this act of 
Salanter, it must be remembered what the service at 
the Synagogue on the eve of the Day of Atonement 
meant to a man like him who was in the habit of 
withdrawing from the world for forty days preceeding 
Yom Kippur, and spending his time in prayer and 

His great compassion and pity for the poor and 
helpless often was the cause of clashes between him 
and the official heads of the communities where he 
lived as a private man. He had settled in Kovno 
shortly after the cholera had wrought great havoc 


among the Jewish population of that city, especially 
among the poor classes. The hospitals were overfilled 
with sufferers, so that quite a number were not properly 
cared for. Salanter insisted that the great Synagogue 
of the community be temporarily used as a hospital 
and poor-house. Needless to say that his plan found 
ill favor in the eyes of many who looked upon it as 
an attempt at desecrating the house of God. Possibly 
they were right, as there was hardly any need of such 
an extreme step to be taken. Salanter, however, in face 
of suffering and distress could not see their point of 
view. Courteous and gentle as he otherwise was, he 
lost his temper on this occasion. Interrupting the 
address he was delivering in the Synagogue, he pointed 
his finger in righteous anger at the president of the 
Congregation, a man distinguished for learning and 
piety alike, and cried out: "You will have to answer 
to the Lord for the suffering of the poor. God much 
rather prefers His House to be used as a sleeping place 
by "Motel the carpenter" a very disreputable person 
but a homeless beggar than as a place of worship by 
you." Not long after this incident, Salanter betook 
himself to the home of the man he had offended, to 
ask his forgiveness, but he never changed his mind 
with regard to the justification of his plan to turn the 
Synagogue into a poor-house 17 . 

A year before this he had gotten himself into the 
bad graces of the spiritual leaders of Wilna. In the 
year of the frightful cholera epidemic Salanter, after 
having taken counsel with a number of physicians, 
became convinced that in the interest of the health 


of the community it would be necessary to dispense 
with fasting on the Day of Atonement. Many a 
Rabbi in this large community was inclined to agree 
with his view, but none of them could gather cour- 
age enough to announce the dispensation publicly. 
During the several years of his stay in Wilna he 
lived strictly the life of a private man, and in his 
humility would not decide a question of ritual, not 
even if it occurred in his own house, but would refer 
it to one of the local Rabbis. When he saw, however, 
that none of them would act in this case, he thought 
self-assertion to be his highest duty. He affixed 
announcements in all Synagogues, advising the people 
not to fast on the coming Day of Atonement. Know- 
ing, however, how reluctant they would be to follow 
his written advice he, on the morning of the Day of 
Atonement at one of the most solemn moments of the 
service, ascended the reader's desk. After addressing a 
few sentences to the Congregation in which he com- 
manded them to follow his example, he produced some 
cake and wine, pronounced the blessing over them, 
ate and drank. One can hardly imagine what moral 
courage and religious enthusiasm this action of his 
required from a man like Salanter to whom obedience 
to the Torah was the highest duty. He found strength 
for his heroic action only in the thought that what he 
did was for the benefit of others. Many years later 
he used to dwell on this episode and thank with great 
joy his Creator for having found him worthy to be the 
instrument of saving many lives. He was convinced 
that many a person weakened by fasting would have 


fallen a victim to the frightful disease, and that 
therefore in making people eat on the great Fast he 
saved many lives. Others, however, did not share his 
conviction of the necessity of dispensing with the fast 
and he was severely censured by them, not only for 
what he did, but also for having assumed the authority 
belonging to the official leaders of the community. It 
is not unlikely that the unpleasantness created by this 
incident was one of the reasons for Salanter's leaving 
Wilna for good. 18 

Poor as he was all his life, he had little of worldly 
goods or, to be accurate, nothing to give others, but he 
did give them more than this he gave himself, heart 
and soul, to those whom he knew to be suffering. The 
poor and the needy could always count upon his 
readiness to assist them. No time of the day, no 
reason of the year, no cold winter night, and no 
scorching summer day could prevent him from walking 
for hours from house to house to solicit help for those 
in need. Once a poor scholar confided to him that if lie 
were able to preach he might succeed in maintaining 
himself and his family by taking up the profession of 
an itinerant preacher, but as the theory as well as the 
practice of preaching were quite unknown to him, he 
must forever give up the hope of gaining a livelihood 
in this way. Salanter, however, did not despair; he 
composed a number of sermons, and after spending 
^several weeks in teaching the poor scholar how to 
deliver them, he dismissed him well prepared for his 
new calling. 

As in the environment of a saint there are often 


found many who are the very reverse of saints, 
Salanter's kindness and sympathy were not rarely 
misused. Sometimes undeserving people would suc- 
ceed in obtaining from him letters of recommendation, 
but he would never revoke them, even if informed by 
reliable persons of the deception practised on him. He 
used to say that a letter of this sort becomes the 
rightful property of the person to whom it is given 
and it would be plain robbery to revoke it. 

The fear of being the cause, even in the remotest 
manner, of injury to the poor, was always present be- 
fore his eyes. Once when, in obedience to the rabbini- 
cal ordinance, he was washing his hands before sitting 
down to a meal, his disciples noticed that he was 
exercising great care not to use a drop of water more 
than the minimum required by the law. In amazement 
they exclaimed: "Rabbi, does not the Talmud say 
that he who lets water flow abundantly over his 
hands will be rewarded with wealth in equal abun- 
dance?*' 19 'True, but I do not want to enrich myself 
at the expense of the labor of the water carrier/' 
replied Salanter. He did not for a moment question 
the binding character of the rabbinical ordinance 
concerning the washing of hands before meals, but 
that did not prevent him from remembering and act- 
ing in accordance with his great moral principle. 

At another time while walking in the outskirts of the 
city, he noticed the cow of a Jewish farmer straying 
away and trying to enter a neighboring garden belong- 
ing to a Gentile Knowing the ill-feeling of the Gentile 
farmers towards their Jewish neighbors in that part of 


the country, he had no doubt that if the animal should 
be caught it would be killed or at best kept for a high 
ransom. He therefore attempted to lead the cow back 
to the Jewish farmer, but inexperienced as he was in 
work of this kind, he miserably failed in driving the 
animal back. Yet he did not give up the fight, and for 
several hours he held on to the cow, and in this way 
prevented her from entering the dangerous zone until 
he was released from his task by people coming along 
the road. To have permitted the cow to run its own 
way, he thought, would have been negligence in his 
duty towards the poor farmer. 

No less cautious was he in avoiding offense to the 
sensibilities of the poor. He was passionately fond of 
snuff, but he denied himself the pleasure of taking it 
at sessions of the Chanty Board, when the poor 
appeared to present their cases. He shrank from 
taking out his silver snuff box in their presence, lest 
its splendor cause them to feel their poverty more 
keenly 20 . 

The ascetic impulse is a general phenomenon in 
saintliness, and the Jewish saint does not form an 
exception to the general rule. Yet there can be no 
doubt as to the correctness of the view that Judaism 
is not an ascetic religion. That the highest develop- 
ment of a non-ascetic religion should culminate in 
ascetic saintliness will appear to many as an inexplic- 
able riddle. If, however, we examine more carefully the 
form of Jewish asceticism, we shall find the answer to 
this puzzling question. A religion that sanctifies even 
the so-called animal appetites and desires of man, 


elevating them into worship and religious exalta- 
tion, and instead of despairing of the flesh, highly 
recommends the satisfaction and joy of the body, 
such a religion could never produce the excesses of 
asceticism found among other religions to whom the 
body and the material world are the seat of evil. With 
very few exceptions, which were of a pathological 
nature, we hardly ever find among the Jewish saints 
ascetic mortification or immolation, and even as- 
ceticism as sacrifice to God is very rare among them. 
Jewish asceticism takes almost always the form which 
a famous psychologist describes as the fruit of the love 
of purity that is shocked by whatever savors of the 

The life of Salanter offers many instances of this 
special kind of asceticism. Of fasting and vigils he did 
not have a high opinion; indeed, he often used to 
admonish his disciples to eat and sleep as much as 
they needed. There was little need to preach temper- 
ance and sobriety to the Lithuanian Jew, distinguished 
for extraordinary frugality. Far more stringent was 
the watch he kept over the things which proceeded 
from the mouth. He would at times refrain for days 
and weeks from talking. Idle talk, indulgence in what 
is ordinarily called conversation, was abhorrent to 
him, and he employed it only as a means to brighten 
up people in depressed spirits. The silence he culti- 
vated had its motive neither in the desire for self- 
mortification nor in that of expiation, but was the 
direct outcome of his highly developed sense of the 
purity of life. To his soul whatever was unspiritual 


was repugnant, and any inconsistency or discord 
between the ideal and the real was exceedingly painful 
to him. The average conversation, even of the 
educated, with its plenitude of insincerity and multi- 
tude of pretentions, shocked his spiritual sensibility to 
such an extent that he preferred silence to speech. 

There was also always present with him the fear of 
being admired by others for qualities of heart and soul 
above what he merited. This fear was so strong with 
him that he was once found weeping after delivering 
a brilliant discussion on a talmudic subject; he was 
afraid that the display of his brilliancy would make 
people exaggerate his intellect ; and what could there be 
worse than deception'* His scrupulousness as to 
veracity and sincerity knew no bounds. The first essay 
published by him contains the note that it was put 
into literary form by somebody other than the author 
himself, who is rather a poor stylist He was once 
asked, how is one to explain the great success of ''the 
liberals" in their fights with "the true believers/' 
since according to a saying of the Sages, "Truth lasts, 
untruth perishes/' The answer he gave was* "Sincer- 
ity makes an untruth seem to be a truth, while 
insincerity makes a truth seem to be an untruth; the 
liberals succeed because they are sincere; their oppo- 
nents fail because they are not always sincere " 

Salanter lived all his life in dire poverty, as a matter 
of choice, as there were many who would have con- 
sidered it a privilege to provide him with comfort. He 
never accepted the position of Rabbi and only for a 
short time did he occupy a public office, that of the 


head of a talmudic school. He was firmly convinced 
that he could do his work best by being entirely 
independent of the public, and after a great inner 
struggle he decided to accept the offer of one of his 
disciples to support him entirely. This disciple was the 
only one from whom he accepted assistance, but only 
as much as was absolutely necessary to keep body and 
soul together. When Salanter's wife died he found a 
small sum of money among her effects which she had 
saved from the weekly allowance granted to her and 
her family by their benefactor. The money was 
distributed by Salanter among the poor. He argued, 
"The money granted to me by my disciple was for my 
needs, but not to enrich myself; hence I have no right 
to it nor have my children, the heirs of my wife, and as 
the original owner refuses to accept it, the poor have 
the next claim to it " 

Though an indefatigable student all his life and in 
great need of books, he never possessed a single 
volume. When he died, his room contained, beside a 
threadbare suit of clothes, nothing else than his Tallit 
and Tefilhn. It would be a great mistake, however, 
to believe that Salanter, like the ascetics of other 
religions, idealized poverty as the loftiest individual 
state and sang its praises. One of his disciples, trying 
to persuade him to accept from a rich admirer a new 
Tallit, said to him, ''You are certainly in need of one 
and the decorum of the services requires that the Tallit 
be not threadbare. I too hope to buy one as soon as 
I have the money." And the master's answer was, "I 
also will buy one as soon as I shall have the money." 


Judaism teaches that wealth is a blessing, as it gives 
time for ideal ends and affords exercise to ideal 
energies. Jewish saints, therefore, never denounced 
the possession of earthly goods, provided man does 
not turn the blessing into a curse by his greed and 
passion for money. The saint, however, knew also the 
high moral value of poverty : liberation from material 
possessions, freedom of soul, and manly indifference. 
Salanter's craving for moral consistency and purity 
was developed to such a degree that he could neither 
occupy a public office in the community nor accept 
comfort and luxuries from the hand of others. He for a 
time thought of becoming an artisan that he might be 
able to support himself by "the labor of his hands," 
but when he saw the impossibility of such a plan, he 
gladly submitted to a life of want and hardship. 

"Love your enemies" is not a Jewish precept, and 
one may doubt whether there are any examples of 
compliance with it. The nearest approach to it is that 
magnanimity which "repays evil with good," and the 
life of Salanter is full of acts of this kind. "Imitation of 
God," he used to say, "is explicitly commanded in the 
Torah, and accordingly it is our duty not only to 
confer an act of kindness upon those who have done 
harm to us, but to do it at the very moment we are 
wronged. God is kind to the sinner at the time of his 
sin and rebellion, since without the kindness of God 
that gives him life and strength he would not be able 
to sin, and we are to imitate Him so as to be like Him. 
We must be kind to those who sin against us, at the 
time of their wrongdoing." He took scrupulous care 


all his life to act in accordance with this rule. No 
sooner did he hear of an injury done to him than he 
hastened to find out whether he could not confer some 
kindness upon the person who injured him. The 
continuous practice of this kind of magnanimity, he 
taught further, develops tolerance and indulgence 
towards all men. 

In one of his letters to his disciples, Salanter ex- 
presses the hope that the spark coming from his soul 
might kindle a holy fire in their hearts. His hope was 
not in vain. His was one of those conductive natures 
who, as was well said by a famous author, are effective 
because the effluence of their power and feeling stirs 
the hearer or onlooker to a sympathetic thrill. A 
Jewish saying, "Words that come from the heart enter 
into the heart," expresses the same thought. Few 
people who came in personal contact with him could 
withstand his charm and his power. His influence over 
the masses as a preacher was unique in the annals of 
Eastern Jewry. The inner fire of his spirit shot out its 
lightning flashes, dazzling the inward eye with the 
clearness of the truth he revealed to the consciences of 
his hearers. He brought the people no new doctrines to 
arrest their thought; he was a flame enkindling the 
smouldering faith of his hearers; for a while he would 
lift them up into the clear atmosphere of heaven 
where their souls stood revealed to themselves and 
their hearts were aglow with unwonted desire of the 
higher life. He saw truth so clearly that he was able 
to make others see it. 


Salanter's power was, however, in himself not in his 
words, and we would do injustice to the man if we 
judged him by his few literary remains. Yet even they 
reveal not only an intellect of originality but also a 
soul of rare purity and great nobility, a worthy link 
in the long chain of Saints in Israel. 



The opening of a new century has given occasion to 
numerous attempts to designate some decisive char- 
acteristic as descriptive of the period just closed. Thus 
the nineteenth century has been variously styled the 
era of the steam engine, of electricity, the age of indi- 
vidualism, of criticism, of democracy; but seeing the 
diversity of standpoints from which the development 
of mankind can be considered, any uniform opinion as 
to what has been the nineteenth century's distinctive 
characteristic is hardly to be expected A railroad mag- 
nate and a professor of philosophy, for instance, would 
hardly agree, the latter would look upon this city's 
elevated railroad as an ingenious device to spoil the 
pleasure and comfort of one's daily walk, while the 
former would consider all the time and work expended 
upon the clearing up of obscure passages in the Dia- 
logues of Plato as bootless waste of energy. When, 
however, we come to the consideration of the question 
from a Jewish standpoint, the task becomes somewhat 
easier If we ask ourselves what was the most striking 
gift of the nineteenth century to Jews and Judaism, 
there is only one answer that can be given: "the science 
(Wissenschaft) of Judaism," or, to use the popular 
though less accurate term, "Jewish science." 

Emancipation, Reform and Zionism are phenomena 
which strike deep into Jewish life both spiritual and 



material, but they are all phenomena which rest upon 
the same Jewish science. The claims of the latter to be 
the most important Jewish event of the past century 
are supported by the fact that it is a genuinely Jewish 
creation. And, indeed, although Jewish science received 
strong impulses from without, its origin lay entirely 
within the fold. 

It is an error to maintain, as is frequently asserted, 
that Jewish science began with Zunz, and that the Ger- 
man "critical school" was an indispensable forerunner 
of it. More than a generation before the birth of Zunz, 
whose great merit in the field of Jewish learning I would 
be the last to deny, there lived in Lithuania a certain 
Elijah of Wilna, 1 commonly called the Gaon, who in- 
deed deserves in full the title of "founder of Jewish 
science." His son Abraham, 3 Manasseh ben Porat, 3 
Wolf Einhorn,* David Luna 5 and others, represent this 
Lithuanian school of the Gaon which was indubitably 
free from all extraneous influence, while his point of 
view, persisting in Krochmal and Rapoport, assumed 
modern forms. It is only when thinking of these last 
named, who consciously adopted modern methods, that 
we may call Jewish science a creation of the nineteenth 

Undoubtedly this fact that Jewish science is thor- 
oughly Jewish in its origin must be the reason why the 
Jewish public knows, or cares to know, so little about 
it. The genealogy of a baptized Jew may count upon 
numerous readers in a Jewish paper as soon as he has 
attained prominence and fame in some department of 
human activity. Nay, even the Jewish pulpit will sing 


the praise of a Jewish thinker whose hatred for his 
people is exceeded only by his contempt for Judaism. 
The esteem in which such a one is held in the Christian 
world suffices to stamp him almost as a Jewish saint ; 
while really Jewish thinkers or men who have devoted 
the whole of their lives to Judaism, men whose gifts 
and abilities would have brought them eminence and 
admiration in any other branch of human knowledge, 
are passed over by this same good Jewish public as 
worthy of no attention whatever 

I therefore esteem it a privilege to be allowed to 
sketch before you the life and activity of a Jewish 
spiritual hero, a man who was a Jew not alone by 
descent and faith, but who lived and labored for his 
people and religion. To-day is the one-hundredth an- 
niversary of the birthday of Zachariah Frankel, and I 
propose to devote a few moments to the memory of 
this great scholar, this deeply religious thinker, the 
zealous and tireless worker for the cause of Judaism 
and the Jew. It is not, of course, to be expected that 
I should occupy your time with a detailed biography 6 
Nor is it possible to comprise in one address a complete 
resum6 of the many-sided importance of such a man 
I shall content myself with speaking of Frankel as a 
theologian, as the father of the "positive historical 
school,' 1 and as the historian of the Talmud or, to be 
accurate, of the Halakah. 

Frankel, the scion of a Prague family distinguished 
for learning, wealth and standing, was born on Simhat 
Tor ah, in the Jewish year 5562, that is, September 
30, 1801. 


He received his secular and rabbinical training in 
his native city, and for a short time studied classi- 
cal philology and mathematics at the University of 
Pesth, where in 1831 he was graduated as doctor of 
philosophy. A year later he was appointed by the 
Government as District Rabbi of the District of 
Leitmeritz, and at the same time he was elected 
Rabbi of Teplitz, the leading congregation of the 
district. At his instigation, or at least with his ap- 
proval, the congregation of Teplitz introduced a 
number of innovations in the service of the Synagogue 
which, though far from being radical, were looked upon 
by many as deviations from strict orthodoxy. He dis- 
tinguished himself by being the first rabbi in Bohemia 
to introduce German sermons into the Synagogue In 
1836 he became Chief Rabbi of Saxony and of its 
capital, Dresden, where he remained eighteen years. 

While we cannot speak here of Frankel's activity 
as Rabbi, we cannot omit to mention the considerable 
share he took in the emancipation of the Jews of Saxony 
Not alone did he obtain for them the privilege of public 
observance of their religion, the erection of a synagogue 
and school, which had been hitherto forbidden, but he 
distinguished himself by his zealous activity in secur- 
ing the abolition of the humiliating Jew-oath, to which 
his treatise, Die Eidesleistung der Jtiden, 1840, con- 
tributed not a little. Prince John of Saxony entered 
the parliament with the work in his hand, and the re- 
sult of the legislative debate was the abolition of this 


Frankel' s success as rabbi was the more remarkable, 
as by nature he was not a fiery orator, possessed no 
imposing personality, but appeared as a genuine type 
of the close student the bookworm, endowed rather 
with the qualifications necessary to make him a scholar 
among scholars than a leader of the masses. This knowl- 
edge of his own weakness proved also his strength in 
that he refused the call to Berlin as Chief Rabbi in 
1843, while in 1854 he accepted with gratification the 
presidency of the Rabbinical Seminary in Breslau, 
then just established. He occupied the chair of Talmud 
and Codes at the Seminary and yet found time not 
only to edit the Monatsschrift which he had founded in 
1852, but also to contribute largely to it. Increasing 
years induced him, in 1869, to transfer the editorship 
of his magazine to Professor Graetz; but he remained 
actively at the head of the Seminary until his death, 
on February 13, 1875. 

Let us now pass to a consideration of Frankel's theo- 
logical standpoint. Although in his communication to 
the Hamburg Tempel Verein he assumed a standpoint 
which must undoubtedly be styled new, inasmuch as 
it ran counter to both strict orthodoxy and reform, his 
actual leadership of a new and living school in Judaism 
must be considered to have begun upon his departure 
from the celebrated Frankfort Rabbinical Conference. 
We are yet too close to that period to give an unbiased 
judgment concerning that Conference; I, for my part, 
care not to be designated as a heretic by the one side 
or as a fanatic by the other. Let us merely examine 
how far Frankel was justified in warning the reformers 


of his day that they lacked all scientific principle, lacked 
all the necessary earnestness, and were wanting in 
spirituality and perception of the true demands of the 
times. That these accusations were totally groundless, 
no one will assert to-day. As for Frankel's first re- 
proach, that of lack of all guiding principle, it must be 
remembered that when in the course of the debate he 
insisted again and again upon some consistent state- 
ment of principles which reform was to follow, he was 
interrupted by cries that in principles his fellow dele- 
gates were unanimous. How ill-founded such a state- 
ment was will become evident to us when we remember 
that in that conference the abolition of Sabbath and 
Holy Days found champions while, at the same time, 
discussion waxed warm as to the propriety of supply- 
ing the ritual bath with "drawn water." 

The truth is that even the two most prominent spiri- 
tual leaders of the conference, Geiger and Holdheim, 
were not agreed upon principles. The latter, in his 
conception of Judaism, was a Polish Pilpulist in mod- 
ern garb; the former was a historian from the critical 
school of the German universities. Holdheim desired 
the reform of biblical Judaism, which naturally would 
lead to almost complete negation, seeing that one por- 
tion thereof is now no longer specifically Jewish and 
another not Jewish at all. Geiger, on the other hand, 
wished to reform rabbinical Judaism ; as a historian he 
recognized that Rabbinism is itself reform. He desired 
to retain the spirit while changing the external form. 
"Ex lege discere quod nesaebat lex" was the formula 


used eighteen centuries earlier by a great reformer to 
state his doctrine of a Torahless Judaism. 

These facts about the Frankfort Conference may 
serve not alone to justify Frankel's charge of a lack of 
principle in Reform, but also to explain how it came 
about that he took part in this convention, whose spiri- 
tual leaders were Geiger and Holdheim. The very want 
of unanimity and clarity of purpose in the camp of 
Reform must have confirmed Frankel in his expecta- 
tion that if Reformers would only come together for an 
illuminating public discussion of principles, the con- 
servative elements would attain supremacy, even if 
only because the majority of the Reformers at that 
date had neither the courage nor the steadfastness of 
conviction to break definitely with Rabbinism and 
traditional Judaism. Some such intention in Frankel 
was evidently divined by the leaders of radical Reform, 
who opposed with all their might the discussion of any 
question of principle in the conference, and inasmuch 
as the guidance of the deliberations rested in their 
hands, they were successful in their opposition. 

But Frankel held a trump card in his hand which he 
very cleverly played, and instead of simply staying 
away from the conference, which thus determinedly 
excluded questions of principle, he awaited a fitting 
and striking opportunity clearly to present his diver- 
gent standpoint before the conference, and so bring it 
to the attention of that large Jewish audience in Ger- 
many which was following the deliberations of the 
Frankfort Conference with the closest attention. His 
success was attested by the many enthusiastic addresses 


he received afterward both from extreme Orthodoxy 
as represented by Rabbi Solomon Trier, and from the 
party of moderate progress. 

These congratulations were evidence of the gradual 
growth of a new party of which he was the acknowl- 
edged leader, showing that he could have selected no 
better moment for his public utterance than that in 
which all eyes were riveted upon Frankfort. It was 
here that he first gave expression to the designation 
"positive-historic" Judaism as his religious standpoint, 
an expression which, for half a century, remained the 
shibboleth of the party founded by him. 

As to what is to be understood by this term or, in 
other words, what was Frankel's conception of Juda- 
ism, it is remarkable to note how little clearness there 
exists concerning it. His opponents on both sides sought 
to represent him as a man of compromise, as one who 
would theoretically permit no barriers against critical 
investigation but in practice would make the authority 
of tradition paramount. But this conception explains 
nothing and raises the question, how Frankel came to 
assume such an unnatural as well as unscientific posi- 
tion. Psychologically, of course, the case is possible 
that one in whom religious sentiment and critical acu- 
men struggled for the mastery might see himself forced 
arbitrarily to draw the line between theory and prac- 
tice and in this way maintain a certain inward equi- 
librium. But such a psychological explanation would 
hardly apply to the case of Frankel, who was a fairly 
consistent personality. Nor can a creative mind pro- 
duce a "creatio ex mhilo" and only when the condi- 


tions are present can a great mind fashion the material 
at hand. 

This "positive-historic" school has demonstrated its 
strength and viability in the last fifty years especially 
by its building up " Jewish science," and no one would 
care to seek the origin of all it has produced in the 
psychology of one man. The best and only correct 
answer to the question, "What is positive-historic 
Judaism?" was given by Frankel himself "Judaism 
is the religion of the Jews." The best illustration of 
his conception of Judaism is precisely the instance 
which induced Frankel to leave the Frankfort Confer- 
ence, on which occasion he, for the first time, made 
use of the expression "positive-historic" Judaism. The 
matter in hand was a discussion of the question 
whether and to what extent the Hebrew language 
should be retained in the Synagogue; and whent he 
majority decided that Hebrew must be kept there 
only out of consideration for the feelings of the old 
generation, Frankel took his departure. It may at 
first seem somewhat strange that he calmly sat 
through all the radical discussions concerning Sabbath 
and marriage laws, while he perceived danger to the 
Jewish religion in such a matter as the abolition of the 
Hebrew language. Indeed, the very lively debate 
which followed Frankel's address concerning the great 
importance of the Hebrew language for synagogue 
worship serves to show how few of those present 
understood him. Of his opponents only Geiger hit the 
nail on the head with his remark that language was a 
national thing, and as such only should it be allowed 


importance. The underlying principle at stake is this: 
does the essence of Judaism lie exclusively in the 
Jewish religion, that is, in ethical monotheism, or is 
Judaism the historical product of the Jewish mind and 
spirit? The Hebrew language is of course not a 
religious factor, and even from the strictest standpoint 
of the Shulhan Aruk, it would be difficult to adduce 
any fundamental objection to the use of any other 
language in prayer. Still it is true that in the long 
development of the synagogue service the Hebrew 
tongue became that which the sensuous cult of classic 
nations or of Catholic Christianity was to those 
religions, or church music to Protestantism, an in- 
strument conducive to lofty impressiveness and edifi- 
cation. The recollection that it was the Hebrew 
language in which the Revelation was given, in which 
the Prophets expressed their high ideals, in which 
generations of our fathers breathed forth their suffer- 
ings and joys, makes this language a holy one for us, 
the tones of which re-echo in our hearts and awaken 
lofty sentiments. In a word, Hebrew is the language 
of the Jewish spirit, and in so far an essential compo- 
nent of our devotional sentiment. It is true that 
pictorial representations working upon the eye, or 
musical sounds, may move our sentiment and attune 
us devotionally ; but this is true of mankind in general 
and not only specifically of the Jews The Jewish 
divine service must therefore specifically influence 
Jewish minds, hence Frankel considered the Hebrew 
language as the sole instrument which can give it this 
Jewish tinge. In this sense Geiger was consistent in 


opposing its use as the expression of Jewish nationalism 
and in opposing Frankel. 

The same conception of Judaism underlay Frankel's 
attitude toward the Law, and it is not correct, as is 
sometimes said, that he allowed his critical spirit free 
rein until he came to some point of importance for 
theology and then refused to allow criticism to carry 
him further. I do not propose now to examine Frankel's 
position regarding biblical criticism, and am willing to 
grant the statement (repeatedly made) that he con- 
sidered the Bible as a "noh me tangere" to be correct. 
It must, however, be remarked that Frankel never 
deduced the authority of the Law from the plenary 
inspiration of the Bible as the word of God, and the 
foremost representative of the positive-historic school 
next to Frankel was a man who, upon this point, may 
fairly be styled almost radical. Neither for Frankel 
nor for Graetz was Law identical with Bible ; but in the 
course of time, whether for weal or for woe, in the 
development of Jewish history, the former became the 
specifically Jewish expression of religiousness. The 
dietary laws are not incumbent upon us because they 
conduce to moderation, nor the family laws because 
they further chastity and purity of morals. The law 
as a whole is not the means to an end, but the end 
in itself; the Law is active religiousness, and in 
active religion must lie what is specifically Jewish. 
All men need tangible expression to grasp the highest 
ideas and to keep them clearly before them, to say 
nothing of the ordinary masses for whom abstract 
ideas are merely empty words. Our need of sensuous 


expressions and practical ceremonies brings with it 
the necessity for the material incorporation of religious 
conceptions, and various peoples have given them 
varying forms. The Law is the form in which the 
Jewish spirit satisfies this need. In the precepts, 
which are the dramatic representations of the inward 
feelings, Judaism found a material expression of its 
religious ideas; through them its abstractions became 
realities and in them the essential needs themselves, 
reverence and recognition of the divine will, were 
expressed. Every form became thus spiritualized 
and living, bearing within itself a lofty conception. 

We may now understand the apparent contradiction 
between the theory and practice of the positive- 
historic school. One may, for instance, conceive of the 
origin and idea of Sabbath rest as the professor of 
Protestant theology at a German university would 
conceive it, and yet minutely observe the smallest 
detail of the Sabbath observances known to strict 
Orthodoxy. For an adherent of this school the sanctity 
of the Sabbath reposes not upon the fact that it was 
proclaimed on Sinai, but on the fact that the Sabbath 
idea found for thousands of years its expression in 
Jewish souls. It is the task of the historian to examine 
into the beginnings and developments of the numerous 
customs and observances of the Jews ; practical J udaism 
on the other hand is not concerned with origins, but 
regards the institutions as they have come to be. If we 
are convinced that Judaism is a religion of deed, 
expressing itself in observances which are designed to 
achieve the moral elevation of man and give reality to 


his religious spirit, we have a principle in obedience to 
which reforms in Judaism are possible. From this 
point of view the evaluation of a law is independent of 
its origin, and thus the line of demarkation between 
biblical and rabbinical law almost disappears. Charac- 
teristic of Frankel's attitude toward this problem is the 
statement given by him in his Darke ha-Mishnah 
concerning Sinaitic Traditions, which caused a great 
deal of controversy. 

In the first section of the Darke ha-Mishnah 
Frankel makes the assertion that the frequently re- 
curring talmudic expression, Halakah le-Mosheh mi- 
Sinai, "a tradition of Moses from Sinai," properly 
designates those ordinances whose reason and origin 
were unknown and which, being of remotest antiquity, 
were looked upon as if they had actually originated on 
Sinai. Strict Orthodoxy, of course, perceived in this 
statement a declaration of war against traditional 
Judaism inasmuch as it denied Sinaitic authority for 
the "Oral Law." Men like Samson R. Hirsch and 
Benjamin Auerbach in Germany, Wolf Klein in 
France, Gottlieb Fischer in Hungary to mention only 
a few attacked Frankel vigorously, accusing him of 
undermining traditional Judaism. 7 But there were 
not lacking, on the other side, defenders like Raphael 
Kirchheim, Saul Kaempf, and to some extent also 
Solomon L. Rapoport 8 . Curiously enough Frankel 
took no further notice of these attacks other than to 
publish an explanation (Erklarung) in the Monats- 
schrift, in which, however, the same unclearness of 
thought and indefiniteness of expression concerning 


the term "Sinai tic Tradition" prevail as in the Darke 
ha-Mishnah. This was the very cornerstone of offense, 
and both sides desired a clear statement on the 
point. To give our opinion today upon this contro- 
versy, we can only say that both Frankel and his 
orthodox opponents were equally right, each from his 
own particular standpoint. The Mishnah as well as the 
Talmud do employ the expression quoted to designate 
the laws whose origin is acknowledged to be of later 
date; but it is no less true that they hold that many 
Halakot were imparted orally upon Sinai in addition 
to the Written Law. Even if we knew nothing of such 
Halakot, the expression "Sinai tic Tradition" used in 
old sources to describe laws whose origin was no longer 
known, would imply that there were traditions which 
were revealed to Moses on Sinai, otherwise this term 
would never have been used. Strict orthodoxy, there- 
fore, was correct when its champions insisted upon the 
recognition of this theory. But it is clear also that 
Frankel, for whom, as we have seen, the authority of 
the Bible depended essentially upon the fact that its 
doctrine had penetrated into the mind and sentiment 
of the Jewish people, could not make the authority of 
tradition dependent upon the adoption of such a theo- 
ry of "Sinaitic Halakot." What distinguishes these 
Halakot from others is their origin in high antiquity, 
during the formative period of Jewish history. Just as 
the character of an individual man is in its essence 
formed before he attains manhood, though the circum- 
stances of his life modify it, giving prominence to some 
points and leaving others undeveloped, so in those 


early centuries were formed that set of ideas and 
type of mind which took shape in these provisions. 

"The Law" is essential to the Jewish religion, but 
not the laws; though, of course, seeing that the former 
presumes the latter, if Reform is to be a forward 
development of Judaism a norm must be maintained, 
lest Judaism suffer like the bundle of arrows in the 
fable, and each individual arrow being broken, the 
whole bundle will be shattered. This norm, according 
to Frankel, was the talmudic position that whatever 
observance is spread through the whole community 
must not be abrogated by any authority. Frankel, 
according to his conception of Judaism, could not well 
arrive at any other conclusion. That which the whole 
community has adopted and recognized may not be 
repealed ; to do so would be to dissolve Judaism, which 
is nothing else than the sum of the sentiments 
and views which dominate Jewish consciousness. In 
reply to the question as to who must be taken as the 
representatives of Jewish consciousness, Frankel could 
only make the reply that only those who saw in 
Judaism a very definite form of expressing religious 
thought and feeling, only those who recognized the 
Law as specifically Jewish, could have the right to 
decide what portions of it had incorporated themselves 
into the national consciousness. 

Theoretically Frankel's definition of Judaism gives 
up a large field to Reform ; practically, however, Frankel 
did not follow up the consequences of his doctrine. 
This must be partially ascribed to the fact that in the 
proceedings of the radical Reformers he recognized 


only a species of religious indifferentism totally re- 
pugnant to him, and was therefore inclined to side 
with Orthodoxy, though he differed from it in very 
essential doctrines. Take, for instance, his belief in the 
Messiah, which was far from Orthodox as can be seen 
by his letter to the Hamburg Tempel Verein. In view 
of the present Zionistic movement, it will be of in- 
terest to recall the following utterance. 'The desire 
that in a certain corner of the globe naturally, of 
course, in the land of our ancestors, so full of the 
holiest recollections our nationality should again 
appear and that we should enjoy the respect which sad 
experience teaches us falls to the lot only of those who 
possess worldly might, contains in itself nothing wrong ; 
we evidence thereby only that in spite of centuries of 
suffering and misfortune, we do not despair of our- 
selves and cherish the idea of a self-dependent and a 
self-reliant reanimation." The warmth with which 
Frankel in this letter posits the firm belief in the 
restoration of the Jewish nation, and his sharp and 
bitter criticism of the attenuation and the spiritless 
superficiality which avoided any expression of national 
character, shows clearly that Frankel realized that 
Judaism possessed a far broader basis than that of a 
mere religious community. These words contain a 
germ of the purely national conception of Judaism 
which finds expression in many a Zionist tendency of 
to-day. For Frankel, it is true, nationalism does not 
belong to the essence of Judaism, but it is nevertheless 
necessary for its existence. Breath is not a part of 
man, it comes to man from without, yet no one can 


live without breathing. So nationalism is the very air 
in which Judaism breathes. 

The view that only that is Jewish which lives in the 
consciousness of the Jewish people inclined Frankel, 
it is true, towards conservatism ; but it likewise stimu- 
lated him most powerfully to creative thought. His 
indisputable scientific importance lies undoubtedly in 
the fact that he is the historian of the Halakah ; his 
efforts in this department constitute a scientific 
analysis of the national consciousness as expressed 
in the Halakah, the national mode of life. His re- 
searches demonstrated how the individual details of 
the Halakah came into being and how from small 
beginnings they poured themselves into that stormy 
ocean, the "sea of the Talmud/' To the landsman the 
ocean seems one huge immeasurable flood, obeying a 
single law of ebb and flow and offering a uniform 
force. Yet in truth we know that the movement of the 
ocean is the result of many forces; the seeming uni- 
formity covers the energy of a hundred currents and 
counter-currents. The sea is not one mass but many 
masses moving along definite lines of their own. It is 
the same with the "sea of the Talmud." The uniform 
character of the Talmud exists only for those who 
merely survey its surface, but not for those who 
understand how to penetrate its depths. Frankel 
therefore endeavored to discriminate between those 
tendencies of the Halakah which were always current, 
and those which were dictated by the newly-arising 
needs of the day. The difficulties of his task and the 
measure of success he attained can only be given in 


outline; details would require many lectures. The only 
source of Halakah, that is, of religious practice and 
its theoretical foundations as it developed in the 
period between the return from the Babylonian exile 
and the sixth century of the Christian era, is the 
talmudical literature. But the Talmud is like the Jew 
whose spirit it represents. Just as it is extremely 
difficult to-day to indicate in any individual Jew what 
about him is strictly Jewish, what he owes to foreign 
influence, and what is the result of a combination of 
both these elements, so is it also with the Talmud. 
The larger portion of this work in its present shape is 
the product of the fifth century; a small but most 
important portion of it dates from about the beginning 
of the third century the Mishnah and other tannaite 
collections. Its various component parts, however, 
have been welded together and can be resolved into 
their origins only by the exercise of a sharply dis- 
criminating analysis 

An important problem is the relation of the Baby- 
lonian Talmud to the Palestinian; in spite of their 
common origin, they are widely divergent. In short, 
the history of the development of the Halakah must 
occupy itself with such problems as the following* 
The oldest traditions of the Halakah must be dis- 
covered in the literature as we have it; the codified 
Halakah of the Tannaim must be examined in its 
progressive stages; the treatment and tradition of this 
tannaite Halakah at the hands of the Amoraim must 
be examined. 

Frankel was not only one of the first to point the 


way that the critics of the Halakah must go, but 
himself traversed a goodly portion of the route, 
especially in the following works : Ueber den Einfiuss 
der Palaestinensischen Exegese auf die Alexandrinische 
Hermeneutik (1851), and Ueber Palaestinensische und 
Alexandrinische Schnftforschung (1854), in both of 
which he endeavors to trace the old Halakah in the 
Greek translation of the Bible. Important as both 
these works are for the understanding and proper 
valuation of the Septuagmt, their chief importance for 
Frankel and, indeed, for Jewish science, lies in the 
detection of the oldest components of the Halakah 
contained therein. He shows how the translators of the 
Bible into Greek as early as the third century before 
the common era were influenced in their understanding 
of the Bible by the traditions of the Halakah. The 
elucidation of the second of the above mentioned 
problems is the aim of Frankel's chief work, the 
Darke ha- Mishnah (1859). 

This is Frankel's most important work; in five 
sections it treats of (1) the origin and development of 
the Oral Law in the time of the Scribes, from the 
return from Babylon to the Maccabees; (2) an account 
of all the Tannaim mentioned in the Mishnah and of 
their chief legal and ethical doctrines; (3) the relation 
of Rabbi Judah's Mishnah to the preceding halakic 
collections that formed its basis; (4) a concise but 
quite new presentation of the methodology of the 
Mishnah; (5) a short conspectus of all other tannaitic 
works, such as the Tosefta, the Mekilta, etc., as well as 
of the old commentaries of the Mishnah. Of these 


sections of unequal length and of unequal importance, 
the second is undoubtedly the most valuable even 
to-day, and in research concerning the mishnaic 
doctors, one invariably falls back upon Frankel's clear, 
comprehensive and judicious work, a testimony of his 
erudition and his fairness alike. 

Frankel's other great work was the Mebo ha- 
Yerushalmi (1870). This work consists like the 
preceding one of five sections of unequal length and 
unequal importance. It treats of (1) the politico- 
economic conditions of the Palestinian Jews at the 
time of the Amoraim, the authors of the Palestinian 
Talmud; (2) the linguistic peculiarities of Palestinian 
Aramaic and the style of the Palestinian Talmud; 
(3) the method of the Yerushalmi and its relation 
to the Babli; (4) an alphabetical index of all the 
Amoraim mentioned in this Talmud with short bi- 
ographic-chronological notes; and (5) the commen- 
tators and editions of the Yerushalmi. The remaining 
essential of a history of the Halakah, as stated before, 
concerns the treatment of tannaite doctrine by the 
Amoraim, or the relation of the Palestinian Talmud 
to the Babylonian. In the Mebo Frankel discusses 
this brilliantly. He attempts to show that the Mishnah 
existed in Palestine even in late days in varying 
versions, some of which received general recognition, 
and a selection from them was made in Tiberias. This 
Mishnah of Tiberias with a few changes and emenda- 
tions became the standard text in the Babylonian 
Academies. He showed also that the other tannaitic 
collections commonly designated as Baraitas existed 


in different editions in Palestine and Babylon. Such 
facts naturally entailed different treatment in the two 
Talmuds, the characteristics of which Frankel clearly 
and exhaustively describes. 

To indicate Frankel's position among the fathers of 
Jewish science, we might say that he is the historian of 
the halakic literature. Judaism was for him a historic 
process and not merely a theological doctrine. His 
scholastic interest centered in the Halakah, which 
reflects the process. His strength however was not in 
following up the individual phases and the inward 
development of the Halakah but in the fact that, 
with extraordinary acumen and a very happy gift of 
combination, he recognized the result of the various 
tendencies of the Halakah just as soon as they evi- 
denced themselves in literary form. 

A correct objective estimate of Frankel's importance 
for the history of the Halakah may best be attained by 
comparing him with Geiger. The latter, a historian 
pure and simple of Jewish theology, evidences a finer 
understanding as a critic of the Halakah than Frankel 
as far as the principles of its development are con- 
cerned, but is extremely unfortunate as a historian of 
the halakic literature and as interpreter of halakic 
texts. Frankel's true superiority over Geiger and 
indeed one might say over almost every other Jewish 
scholar of modern times in Western Europe consists 
in the fact that he united in himself old-Jewish learn- 
ing and modern critical schooling, so that it is difficult 
to say whether he was more an old time Lamdan or 
a modern scholar. 


The other founders of Jewish science were either 
Talmudists who had acquired modern education of 
themselves Krochmal, Rapoport and others or mod- 
ern savants who chose Jewish science as their special 
study like Zunz, Jost and Geiger. Frankel was the 
exception; from his earliest youth he harmonized 
within himself the Yeshtbah bahur and the university 
student, and to this rare combination he owes his 
proud position among the founders of Jewish science. 
The historian of a certain period or of a tendency of 
thought must bring himself into deep and close con- 
nection with his material; he must, on the one side, 
be so much at home in his sources as to feel their 
continued connections with history and, on the other 
side, if his opinions are to be objective, he must 
consider the problems before him historically that is, 
as separate and apart. The modern scholar who 
attempts to examine Judaism and its literature usually 
lacks either this intimate acquaintance with the 
historical material or a full consciousness of the 
thoughts to be presented; while the Talmudist pure 
and simple is still too much preoccupied and influenced 
by that on which he is to give an opinion. Frankel's 
merit was that he did not skim the surface of the "sea 
of the Talmud," but plunged into its depths and 
never permitted himself to be swayed hither and 
thither by its deep currents. The whole future of 
Jewish science depends upon whether we shall number 
among ourselves many more men who, like Frankel, 
shall combine harmoniously the old and the new. 



Highly significant of the vagueness and confusion of 
ideas that prevail in certain circles is the fact that the 
apostles of "universal Judaism" are at the same time 
the spokesmen and exponents of the doctrine of "pro- 
vincial Judaism." Old Judaisrr is too narrow and 
limited, its chains must be snapped! This is pro- 
claimed to all who will hearken, and in the very next 
sentence the Jews are exhorted to Americanize, to 
Germanize Judaism, so that nothing Jewish remains. 
Hence Judaism embraces all mankind but the Jew. 

As is the case with most shibboleths, an element of 
truth underlies the expression "provincial Judaism." 
Judaism in ancient times and during a large part of the 
Middle Ages had spiritual centers, which kept the 
spiritual unity of Judaism intact, despite the fact that 
the Jews for more than two thousand years lived 
scattered in all parts of the globe. These centers 
changed from time to time. The first was the temple, 
then came the patriarchate, then the academies in 
Palestine and Babylonia. Consequently neither Hel- 
lenism nor later the Roman civilization caused any 
essential differentiations in Judaism. Here and there, 
it is true, we hear a good deal about the contrast 
between "Hellenistic Jews" and "Palestinian Jews," 
but this is because we know very little about the 



former, and as a result one can ascribe everything to 
them. It may be stated, however, in this connection, 
that the most important creation of Jewish Hellenism, 
the translation of the Bible into Greek, points toward 
the endeavor rather to Judaize Hellenism than to 
Hellenize Judaism. We have a Greek Bible, but have 
we a Hebrew Plato? It was not until the end of the 
tenth century when, on the one hand, the academies of 
Babylonia had begun to lose their importance and, on 
the other hand, freshly pulsating life stirred in the 
Jews of Italy, Spain, France and South-western Ger- 
many, that the hitherto unimpaired spiritual unity of 
Judaism vanished forever. Not that it was the en- 
deavor of Judaism from now on to lose itself in the 
civilization surging about it. On the contrary, Judaism 
has always come out of its contact with a different 
civilization strengthened, spiritually enriched, deep- 
ened and developed. From this point of view the term 
"geographical Judaism" is a justified expression for an 
influence which since the tenth century has been, and 
to this day continues to be, an important factor in the 
history of the Jew. Rashi and Maimonides, who are 
among the greatest men of mediaeval Judaism, are 
typical products each of the country in which he lived. 
The systematizing genius of Maimonides could have 
developed as little in Champagne as could the natural- 
ness and depth of Rashi, unclouded by philosophic 
speculation, have been fostered under the high culture 
of the Arabs. Each, however, found complete satisfac- 
tion in Judaism, not in an Arabic or a French Judaism, 
but in Judaism par excellence. 


The dispersion of the Jews to all quarters of the 
globe was beneficial, then, in this respect, that Juda- 
ism in its totality could not be too strongly influenced 
by any one civilization. The philosophic tendency of 
Spanish Judaism stood at the opposite pole from the 
tendency of Franco-German Judaism, and they met in 
Provence, with the result that neither of the two 
attained predominance. In recent times a similar 
phenomenon is to be observed. The three great 
masters of the science of Judaism Krochmal, Zunz 
and Rapoport may not be considered apart from 
their environment. No one but the foster-child of a 
German university could do what Zunz did bring 
order into the chaos in which he found the history of 
Jewish literature. And it was Krochmal, the Hasid, 
who from his early youth had made himself familiar 
with the metaphysical speculations of the Kabbalah in 
its hasidistic form, who explained the deep philosophy 
of Judaism on the basis of its historic development. 
Moreover, the Polish Pilpul in the unsurpassed acute- 
ness of its dialectics was the most favorable soil for 
producing a critic like Rapoport, whom modern science 
had only one thing to teach how to make use of the 
weapons he had at hand. 

A man who could avail himself of the critical skill of 
a Rapoport, the philosophy of a Krochmal and the 
clearness of a Zunz could arise only in a country in 
which talmudic learning and modern culture existed 
alongside of each other. This was nowhere possible 
except in that part of Austria in which Germanism had 
made fair progress without at the same time destroy- 


ing old rabbinical Judaism. These conditions existed 
in Bohemia and Moravia in the first half of the 
nineteenth century, as similar conditions had existed 
in Provence in the thirteenth century. Although 
inhabited for the most part by Slavs, Bohemia and 
Moravia were the field for the Germanizing experi- 
ments of Emperor Joseph II. The persons used by the 
Emperor for this purpose were in the main such poor 
specimens of humanity that Germanism as a contrast 
to Judaism won few respecters or admirers, but in its 
practical aspect it was more successful. The acquisi- 
tion of the German language laid the foundation for 
modern culture. 

The life of Isaac Hirsch Weiss reflects the Jewish 
history of his native land, Moravia. Only Moravia 
could produce the historian of Jewish Tradition. 
Germany had no men who possessed the requisite 
talmudic-rabbinic knowledge, and the Poles, as a 
result of their one-sided talmudic education, lacked 
system and clearness. The life history of this great 
scholar assumes even greater importance if one recalls 
that it is the history of a man who has lived ninety 
years. He is not only the greatest Jew of Moravia, but 
the last representative of "geographical Judaism." 
The conflict between German and Slav in his province, 
it is true, was never so strong as it is now. Neverthe- 
less, that which is specifically Moravian-Jewish dis- 
appeared, and at best nowadays one finds only here 
and there someone who knows how to tell Jewish 
stories and pass them off upon the credulous as 


Isaac Hirsch Weiss 1 was born at Gross-Meseritsch, 
Moravia, on Shebat 29, 5575, that is, February 9, 
1815. According to the custom of the land, he re- 
ceived his early education in the Heder. But at that 
time the Heder in Moravia had already been somewhat 
modernized, for instruction was not confined to the 
Talmud but was given in Hebrew grammar as well, 
which is still regarded as a forbidden branch of learning 
in various parts of Russia and Poland. The text-book 
used was Ben-Zeeb's Talmud Leshon 'Ibri. For a 
century this Hebrew grammar was the one that was 
liked best, while its author was in certain circles among 
the most hated of men. The judgment that Weiss 
pronounced upon the Heder is worthy of mention here. 
Naturally, he was not blind to certain of its defects, 
but he admitted that piety, firm belief, love of Judaism 
and the teachings of Judaism are to be found more 
frequently among the old Melamdim than among 
modern religious instructors, and that the Melamdim 
are better entitled to be called "religious instructors," 
since their life, in furnishing the best example of true 
religion, exercised a much greater influence upon their 
pupils than religious instruction imparted according 
to all the rules of pedagogy, but lacking religious 

Weiss did not remain in the Heder a long time. His 
parents sent him, when scarcely thirteen years old, to 
the Yeshibah in Trebitsch, the leader of which was 
then Rabbi Hayyim Joseph Pollak. Pollak was a 
prominent Talmudist who, at the same time, was very 
well versed in the mediaeval philosophic literature of 


the Jews, which circumstance made him an almost 
unique personality in his day. a To his philosophic and 
modern culture was due the fact that he went his own 
way in interpreting the Talmud. Instead of the hair- 
splitting dialectics cultivated in the Yeshibot under the 
name Pilpul, Pollak in his lectures upon the Talmud 
adopted the philologico-critical method later carried to 
brilliant perfection by his pupil Weiss. 

But Weiss early in life seems to have been seized by 
?. love of change. After he had devoted himself to 
study for two years under the guidance of Pollak, he 
went to Eisenstadt in Hungary, where he entered the 
large Yeshibah conducted by Rabbi Moses Perls. 
There was great similarity in more than one respect 
between the two teachers of Weiss. Like Pollak, Perls 
was an opponent of the Pilpul, and his interpretation 
of the Talmud was logical and critical. Although he 
had no modern learning at all, he was no enemy or 
scorner of it, as were most of the Hungarian rabbis of 
his time. On the contrary, he regarded scientific 
knowledge as extremely useful to a Jewish scholar. It 
was a favorite saying of his that secular knowledge 
bears the same relation to the Torah as zero bears to 
one. Knowledge without the Torah is zero, and the 
Torah without knowledge is one; the two together are 
as one placed before zero, or ten. 

The Yeshibah in Eisenstadt, however, was funda- 
mentally different from that in Trebitsch; in fact, 
religious conditions on the whole were essentially 
different in Hungary and Moravia. The Teutonizing 
policy of the Emperor Joseph II had attained its end 


in Moravia, at least so far as the Jews were concerned. 
As early as the beginning of the second third of the 
nineteenth century the larger number of Moravian 
Jews spoke and wrote German. But a knowledge of 
German was identical with the possession of modern 
culture; for in his zeal for knowledge a Bahur of the 
Yeshibah was not satisfied with the mere ability to 
read German ; he strove also to acquaint himself with 
German literature and philosophy. Conditions in 
Hungary were different. The reform movement in 
various German lands provoked a reaction which made 
itself felt most keenly in Hungary. The radical re- 
formers, striving to "de-Judaize" Judaism, brought it 
about that in many orthodox circles every innovation 
however innocent, every concession to modern condi- 
tions however insignificant, was absolutely and un- 
qualifiedly rejected. In earlier times it had not 
occurred to anyone to identify secular culture with 
irreligion. Even at the end of the eighteenth century a 
man like the Gaon, R. Elijah Wilna, maintained that 
"the Jewish scholar must be master of all the seven 
branches of knowledge." 3 Now there were people who 
damned a man simply if he did not devote all his time 
and ability to the Talmud. 

Accordingly, when Weiss came to Eisenstadt he was 
not a little surprised to find that among the Hungarian 
Bahurim there was not even one who possessed any 
Jewish knowledge beyond a knowledge of the Talmud, 
and who certainly, then, had no secular culture. But 
what was worse than their ignorance was their in- 


tolerance. If a colleague dared to think differently 
from them, they sought to persecute him. 

As a consequence Weiss did not remain long in 
Hungary. At the end of two years he went to Nikols- 
burg, Moravia, where R. Nahum Trebitsch had 
founded a large Yeshibah. Although he was back on 
native soil, Weiss was not wholly satisfied with the 
change, because the methods of his new teacher did 
not altogether suit him. On the other hand, he was 
very much pleased that he was now in a position to 
devote himself to secular knowledge along with his 
rabbinical studies. Since he was one of the best 
Bahurim, it was very easy for him to exchange lessons 
with a Bahur who did not do well in his talmudic 
studies, but had a modern education. Weiss taught the 
Bahur Talmud and rabbinics, for which the latter 
instructed Weiss two hours every evening in non- 
Jewish branches of learning. The progress made by 
Weiss in his secular studies was rapid, so that he 
returned to Eisenstadt in 1834 in order to undergo 
the entrance examination to the university. However, 
he gave up this idea and returned to his father's 
house in order to continue his rabbinical studies. 

Although the scion of a family of rabbis and edu- 
cated as such, Weiss appears never to have seriously 
entertained the idea of becoming a rabbi. After his 
marriage with the daughter of Baer Oppenheim, rab- 
bi at Eibenschitz, he lived for several years in his 
native city, Gross-Meseritsch, and devoted himself 
entirely to the study of the talmudic-rabbinic liter- 
ature. For a couple of years he was also the leader 


there of a small but not unimportant Yeshibah. At the 
same time he was active in a literary way, although 
after the old style, writing novellae to the Talmud and 
to the Shulhan Aruk. These studies brought him into 
relations with the leaders of Talmudism, with whom 
he carried on a correspondence, and Responsa to 
Weiss occur in the Responsa collections of Rabbi 
Joseph Saul Nathanson, rabbi at Lemberg, and of 
Rabbi Hirsch Chajes, rabbi of Kalisz. 4 

To this period of his life belong his first attempts in 
the field of Hebrew Literature. Though they in no way 
bear marks or give signs of the future investigator of 
Jewish Tradition, yet they are highly significant of the 
beginnings of the science of Judaism Enthusiasm for 
the Hebrew language, which originated in the newly- 
awakened esthetic feelings, was a necessary preliminary 
condition to the existence of a historico-critical percep- 
tion. Rapoport and Krochmal were the disciples of the 
Measfim, and like the Measfim their first achievements 
were in the field of Hebrew poetry and language. 
Similarly, the first literary attempt of Weiss was a 
Hebrew poem, which appeared in 1846 under the 
title 4< Poetry by Ignatz Weiss in Gross-Meseritsch," 
in the Hebrew journal Kokebe Yizhak. His first sci- 
entific essay appeared the following year in the same 
journal in the form of a biography of Abba Arika, 
which followed the plan and method of the similar 
master creations of Rapoport, but fell far below the 
level of its models. Nevertheless, it gave proof of 
the thorough talmudic learning and critical skill of 
its author. 


These were the years of stress and storm, during 
which the former Bahur developed into a great critic 
and historian. An epigram of Weiss published in 
1852 in the above-mentioned journal shows that he 
not only had internal conflicts to encounter, but 
external reverses to endure as well. The heading 
of the epigram is taken from Ecclesiastes 9, 11: 
"Bread is not to the wise," and the epigram itself 
reads: "On the ladder of thought thou seekest to 
climb to heaven ; and below, on earth, no one concerns 
himself about thee. Rather remain on earth, obey the 
foolish demands of life; then thou wilt find many 
friends, and thou wilt not want for bread " 

Through some friends to whom Weiss had entrust- 
ed his entire fortune he lost it completely, and was 
wholly without means. This was the occasion that 
led Weiss in 1859 to go to Vienna, where he hoped 
to find some suitable work more easily than in a 
smaller city. And he did not have to wait long. In the 
second year of his stay he was appointed Hebrew 
proof-reader in the printing establishment of Zamarski 
& Dittmarsch. His connection with a publishing 
house caused the appearance of his compendium 
of legal decisions, rules and customs of the entire 
Jewish ritual, which was printed in 1861 in Vienna 
under the title Orah la-Zaddik, together with the 
prayer-book of Rabbi Jacob Lissa. The book was 
very successful. But later, when its author emerged 
from the chrysalis state and appeared in his character 
as a critic of the Talmud, it occurred to a certain 
fanatic to buy the plates of the book and destroy them. 


A year later the first important scientific work of 
Weiss appeared, his edition of the S^fra or Tor at Koha- 
nim, the tannaitic Midrash on Leviticus, with the com- 
mentary of Abraham ben David, the great critic of 
Maimonides. The historic-linguistic introduction as 
well as the exegetic-critical notes written by Weiss to 
this edition of theSifra give proof of his talmudic learn- 
ing and his critical training. He who read between 
the lines needed no special explanation to tell him 
that Weiss' point of view was no longer the traditional 
but the critical. However, it was not the hypercritical 
attitude of a Geiger, who often in his presentation of 
the Halakah concerned himself little with what the old 
sources had to say, and considered only whether the 
statements of the sources accorded with his pragmatic 
conception. If not, he said that the statements had 
been altered in later times for a special purpose, and 
were therefore historically unreliable. Geiger, in his 
notice of Weiss' book, 5 said of its author, "Naturally he 
adopted the ordinary talmudic standpoint, and there 
is no question of historical criticism." But while one 
has to admit that to admire by tradition is a poor 
thing, it is still better than to criticise by caprice, and 
"the ordinary talmudic standpoint' 1 so disdainfully 
spoken of by Geiger, is often nearer the truth than the 
criticism of Geiger. The representatives of the old 
school showed that they had much keener insight into 
the nature of Weiss' work. They recognized the new 
in it, and accordingly denounced it as heretical. 

Many years ago when, in the house of my teacher, a 
distinguished Talmudist of Lithuania, I was studying 


the Sifra in the Weiss edition under his guidance, I was 
astonished to see that the introduction was lacking in 
all copies of the book to be found in our Yeshibah. My 
teacher gave me no explanation of the curious fact. It 
was not until a number of years later in Germany, 
when a complete copy of the Sifra as edited by Weiss 
fell into my hands, that everything became clear to 
me. The introduction contained so much that seemed 
heretical in the eyes of orthodox Talmudists that they 
determined to destroy it in order to be in a position to 
use the text. 

Yet it was not until 1864 that Weiss came out 
quite openly and with courage and skill sought to 
advocate his conception of rabbinical Judaism. The 
occasion for this was presented by the Kompert 
trial, which made as great a sensation in the middle 
of the "sixties" as the Dreyfus affair did in recent 
times. The story of the lawsuit is briefly as follows: 

In the Jahrbuch fur Israehten published by Wert- 
heimer and Kompert, an article by Graetz appeared 
in 1863 upon the rejuvenation of the Jewish race. 
The idea is developed that there are mortal and 
immortal races; the immortal races are those which 
have within themselves the capability and power of 
becoming young again, and the Jewish race is espe- 
cially endowed with this power, of which it has given 
actual proof in various periods as, for instance, in 
the Babylonian exile. Graetz sketches in their main 
outlines the conditions and tendencies of the Jews in 
Babylonia, and at the same time shows how, in the 
midst of the most dire ruin, a seedling was deposited, 


which began the process of rejuvenation that led to the 
re-establishment of the Jewish nation. Among the 
small group it was the prophet now commonly called 
Isaiah II, the man of God, who awakened fresh life in 
the moribund Jewish race. Graetz goes on to indicate 
the main ideas in the speeches of the prophet and 
emphasizes chapter fifty-three, which he takes to 
refer to the people of Israel, the people with the 
Messianic mission. An anti-Semitic editor denounced 
the article to the State's attorney, who felt called upon 
to bring in a complaint against Kompert for having 
reviled, derided and dishonored the Messianic doctrine 
of the Synagogue. I cannot go into the details of this 
extremely interesting trial. It is not the political but 
the religious aspect which is of especial importance to 
us. Both Kompert and the well-known preacher, 
Mannheimer, who was summoned as an expert, 
absolutely protested against the assumption that 
Judaism is divided into sects. There are, said Mann- 
heimer, among the Jews, as among all other men, some 
that are lax in their views, some that are strict, some 
that are liberal minded, some that are bigoted, some 
that are guided by the spirit of the law, some that 
adhere strictly to its letter. But all Jews who call 
themselves such equally accept Judaism, its doc- 
trines and its entire foundation. In regard to the 
doctrine of the Messiah, Mannheimer said that it 
would not be wrong to maintain that an interpretation 
of the passage in Isaiah as not referring to a personal 
Messiah might still not involve a denial of belief in the 
Messiah. Rabbi Lazar Horwitz, the rabbi of Vienna, a 


well-known Talmudist whose opinion as an expert was 
also asked, said that every Jew believes in a personal 
Messiah, but the way and manner in which the 
Messiah will appear is a matter of private opinion. 
The testimony of Mannheimer and Horwitz aroused 
great indignation in many circles. The Neo-Orthodox, 
led by men like Samson Raphael Hirsch and Israel 
Hildesheimer, energetically protested against the idea 
of unity in Judaism as proclaimed by the Viennese 
rabbis. Reformers d la Geiger and Philippson were 
very much dissatisfied with the dogma formulated by 
Horwitz; in fact, the assertions of the Viennese rabbis 
offered many a vulnerable spot difficult to defend. 
Nevertheless, this historic conception of Judaism, 
which lays great stress upon its unity, could not fail to 
win Weiss over to its cause. Consequently, when the 
Orthodox, under the leadership of Hildesheimer, issued 
a protest against Horwitz and Mannheimer signed by 
seventy rabbis, Weiss wrote his brilliant defense of the 
Viennese rabbis under the title Nezah Ytsrael (Vienna, 

In this pamphlet of only twenty-one pages Weiss 
gives in condensed but clear and precise form his 
opinion concerning the two burning questions: Does 
rabbinical Judaism recognize the existence of sects ? 
Does a denial of certain dogmatic principles of belief 
as, for instance, belief in a personal Messiah, bring the 
author of the denial without the pale of Judaism? 

Although Weiss wholly embraced the orthodox 
principles of faith or, to be exact, just because he was 
still rooted in the old Rabbinism, he had to guard 


himself resolutely against an admission that Judaism 
is identical with a dogmatic religion. He explains, 
then, the relation of Rabbinism to Sadduceism and 
Karaism, and shows how the leaders of Rabbinism did 
not expel even their most bitter opponents from the 
Jewish communion. The pamphlet also contains a 
sharp criticism of Reform, to which Weiss denies the 
name of sect because it is absolutely negative, and the 
essence of a thing must be positive. 

A work against Weiss by Rabbi Nisan Schidlow of 
Kollin appeared in the same year. It bore the name 
Neshek Bar and defended the attitude of the rabbis 
who had signed the protest. 

The year 1864 was in another respect, too, a turning- 
point in the life of Weiss. In that year he was ap- 
pointed lector at the Bet ha-Midrash founded in Vienna 
by Jellmek. 

The old Bet ha-Midrash was not only the spiritual 
and intellectual center for old and young, but it was 
also a democratic institution in the best sense; it gave 
the poor and humble an opportunity to show their 
mental superiority, and so force the recognition of the 
great and the mighty. Jellinek possessed more modern 
culture than all the small minds put together that let 
loose their tirades against "Oriental Judaism" in bad 
German or in worse English; and yet he knew very 
well that changed times demanded a change in the old 
Bet ha-Midrash a change, but not destruction. In 
establishing his Bet ha-Midrash, the first purpose that 
Jellinek had in view was to provide an opportunity for 
further study to the many Jewish students in Vienna, 


among them some who had come there from Eastern 
Europe equipped with excellent talmudic learning. In 
addition, the Bet ha-Midrash was to constitute a 
center for the Jewish intelligence of Vienna, so that no 
division in its forces should occur. Weiss and Meir 
Friedmann were appointed lectors, and Szanto, the 
Feingeist) also delivered lectures there. Weiss was 
active in the Bet ha-Midrash for nearly forty years, 
and only recently his colleague, Friedmann, took 
charge of his courses because the former's age pre- 
vented him from being active as a teacher. The success 
of the Bet ha-Midrash is proved by the fact that men 
like Nehemias Bruell and Solomon Schechter have 
gone forth from it. 

Relieved of care concerning his daily bread, Weiss 
could devote himself entirely to his studies, and the 
first fruit of his new labors was an edition of the 
Mishnah Berakot (Vienna, 1864) for his lectures in the 
Bet ha-Midrash. It was provided with a short state- 
ment of its contents and with the various readings in 
the two Talmuds. This was followed the next year by 
an important scientific achievement in his critical 
edition of the Mekilta, the tannaitic Midrash on 
Exodus, which he provided with a valuable commen- 
tary and notes. His introduction upon the historic 
development of the Halakah and the Haggadah in the 
time of the Tannaim, won recognition even from 
Geiger. In the same year Weiss started a Hebrew 
monthly for the history and science of Judaism. After 
four issues it went out of existence, although among 
its collaborators were men like the two Bruells, father 


and son, Friedmann and Reifmann. Two years later 
(Vienna, 1867) appeared the Mishpat Leshon ka- 
Mishnah of Weiss, studies in the language of the 
Mishnah. But the work that made Weiss a father of 
Jewish science did not appear until he was fifty-six 
years old. It was not until 1871 that he decided to 
have the first part of his Dor Dor we-Doreshaw printed. 
The fifth and last part appeared exactly twenty years 
later. But these years were not devoted exclusively to 
his magnum opus. In 1880, in conjunction with his col- 
league of the Bet ha-Midrash, M. Friedmann, he foun- 
ded the Hebrew monthly for Talmud and Rabbinics, 
Bet Talmud, which in its five volumes contains a large 
number of important articles from the pen of Weiss, 
among which I will mention only the following 
three masterly biographies, published also separately: 
Maimonides (Vienna, 1881), Rashi (Vienna, 1882), and 
Rabbenu Tarn (Vienna, 1883) ; and in the same year in 
which he completed his great work he published a new 
edition of the "Methodology of the Talmud," by R. 
Isaac Campanton, to which he prefaced an introduction. 
His biography of Saadia, published in the Hebrew 
year book Ha-Asif (1883), was followed by the bio- 
graphy of another Gaon, Hai, in 1893, along with an 
edition of the didactic poem Musar Haskel ascribed to 
the Gaon. On the occasion of his eightieth birthday 
Weiss wrote his reminiscences (Zikronotai, Warsaw, 
1895), which contain valuable material concerning the 
spiritual condition of the Jews in the second third of 
the nineteenth century. With the brush of a master 
Weiss paints the portraits of the founders of the 


science of Judaism Krochmal, Rapoport, Zunz and 
Luzzatto and his descriptions of them belong to the 
best that has been written about them. Nevertheless, 
the fact must not be concealed that the entirely false 
judgment pronounced by Weiss upon Rapoport evoked 
several works against his Reminiscences. The chief of 
these is the work of Abraham Epstein, called Dibrc 
Bikkoret (Cracow, 1896), in which the author, without 
personal attacks upon Weiss, calls attention to his 
wrong opinion of Rapoport. 

Despite the great respect that Weiss cherished for 
the scholars I mentioned, he was nevertheless the first 
at least among the older generation to acknowl- 
edge willingly that the real founder of historic criticism 
among the Jews was none of these men, but the Gaon, 
R. Elijah Wilna. This greatest critical genius to whom 
the Jews can point, whose portrait would be hanging 
in the assembly hall of every university had he chosen 
some other field for his activity than Jewish literature, 
this great genius for nearly a century, was passed over 
in silence in the presentation of Jewish history, while 
the description of an apostate, who in his verses scoffed 
at Jews and Judaism, fills many pages. And why? 
One is almost inclined to say the Gaon was known as 
the Hasid, the saint, and nowadays there is no room 
for saints. Here the historic objectivity of Weiss is 
seen most clearly. Although entirely modern in his 
views and sentiments, he still has a perception for 
classic phenomena in modern times, and he not only 
knows how to honor the full spiritual greatness of an 


Elijah Wilna, a Mordecai Benet and a Moses Sofer, 
but he does justice also to their personalities. 

Take, for instance, the last-mentioned scholar. R. 
Moses Sofer combined all the great virtues of the old 
Jewish scholar with fighting courage and determina- 
tion, and therefore he was not only the head of a 
Yeshibah, but also the leader of a strong party, 
especially strong in Hungary, which opposed the new 
tendency in Judaism with success. It was not lack of 
comprehension of the new tendency that made Sofer 
its violent opponent; his keen vision gave him insight 
sooner than anyone else into the radicalism into 
which it would degenerate. And it was Weiss who, in 
his sketch of Sofer in the Hebrew monthly Mi-Misrah 
umi-Ma'arab (Vienna, 1896) meted out full justice 
to this great personality, although Weiss did not 
adopt Sofer 's conception of Judaism as his own. 
Moreover, Weiss did not descend to the manner of 
the so-called historians who are incapable of appre- 
ciating a great personality or a spiritual movement in 
its totality, but lose themselves in details and desig- 
nate as characteristic the most insignificant points if 
they are bizarre, and the most unessential minutiae if 
they are curious. They judge accordingly, and as a re- 
sult we hear opinions of the Jewish past and of certain 
tendencies in Judaism which, if the same logic were 
applied to the interpretation of general history, would 
give something like the following: Aristotle was a 
fool; he believed that the heavenly spheres were 
animated. Kepler understood nothing at all of physics, 
because he did not know so much as the law of gravita- 


tion, which is now known to every school-boy. And 
the fathers of the Dutch Republic were mischievous 
reactionaries, for in their political program they did 
not adopt universal suffrage. 

It is impossible to give even a brief characterization 
of the many-sided literary activities of Weiss within 
the limits of a magazine article. But in order to do 
fitting honor to this ' 'grand old man" of Jewish learn- 
ing, it is absolutely necessary to know something 
about his achievements as an historian of Jewish 
tradition, which includes both Haggadah and Halakah 
but mainly the latter. To him who keeps his eyes 
directed on the surface, the "four ells of the Halakah'* 
seem an extremely narrow field without charm of any 
kind, and even in its narrowness, a formless, discon- 
nected mass of petty precepts. Not so to him whose 
vision penetrates into the depths. To him the Halakah 
is the converging point of all the various spiritual 
tendencies in Judaism. One-sidedness is the earmark 
of genius, both in an individual and in a nation. 
Poetry, music, rhetoric and art, therefore, found 
expression in ancient Israel only in religion, which 
dominated everything. Judaism, however, is a religion 
of deeds; it wants to elevate through action and so 
strengthen man's likeness to God. Hence it was 
interwoven with the life of the nation and thus became 
the possession of all of its members. 

The Halakah, the "conduct of life, 11 then, is not a 
mere external form; on the contrary, it is the spiritual- 
ization of every-day life. Despite Paul, who in recent 
times has attracted even Jewish followers, it is a fact 


that religious natures found complete satisfaction in 
active religion, falsely called legalism. The prime 
function of active religion is to give form to the 
religious consciousness, to express or present the 
religious feeling or thought of man. It obviously met 
some of the deepest needs of human nature, and met 
them in a striking way, and for that human type 
\\hich has attained sharply-defined characteristics in 
the course of a long historic process, nothing can take 
its place. In this respect, religion is like music. As 
musical sounds of one race are unmusical and there- 
foie unintelligible to another, so also the forms in 
which religious feeling is expressed are not universal 
but racial. Regarded from this point of view, which is 
neither that of a Galician Hasid nor that of a Western 
professor, the "four ells of the Halakah" appear of 
unfathomable depth, requiring the investigation of a 
man like Weiss. 

A danger which few historians escape in their works 
is that of becoming narrow, pedantic and trivial. 
History very often threatens to degenerate from a 
bioad survey of great periods and movements of 
human societies into vast and countless accumula- 
tions of insignificant facts, sterile knowledge and 
frivolous antiquarianism, in which the spirit of epochs 
is lost and the direction, meaning and summary of the 
various causes of human history all disappear. 

Weiss understood how to bring to light the spiritual 
currents that left their traces in the Haggadah and the 
Halakah ; how to make clear the inner connection that 
exists among the separate facts and occurrences, 


which often seem to have no relation to one another, 
and how to sum up, in one all-comprehending gener- 
alization, the manifold observations made during his 
thorough sifting of the vast accumulations of material. 
From this dominating point of view, each detail to be 
considered falls into its proper place and order comes 
into the confusion that one is accustomed to face when 
one looks through the sources And, indeed, what a 
gigantic task was accomplished when this material, 
lying in huge masses, layer upon layer, here, there and 
everywhere, then gathered together and again heaped 
up indiscriminately, was completely systematized and 
made available for all purposes, and was so arranged 
and disposed that the various features belonging to an 
historical picture came into due prominence and as- 
sumed the proper relation to each other. To have 
recognized these features, to have constructed of them 
a portrait of the whole period treated, and to have 
given them lifelike expression through clear and 
elegant delineation, this was the strength of Weiss' 
work which raises it to one of the most important 
achievements of Jewish learning. 

Weiss' nature cannot be said to be of the same 
creative, stimulating kind as that of Krochmal and 
Rapoport. Truth did not manifest itself to him in 
lightning flashes, and he did not win his successes 
without effort. His power lies in the harmonious 
symmetry of his endowments. Feeling for language, 
critical acumen, historic perception, religious senti- 
ment, all are present in a high degree, but none in such 
excess as to detract aught from the other. A result of 


these qualities is the sureness of method that distin- 
guishes his "History of Tradition 7 ," completeness of 
material to the limits of the possible; calm presenta- 
tion; circumspect research and objectivity and im- 
partiality of judgment. Not that in honoring Weiss I 
would go to the length of declaring him infallible, but 
I will make so bold as to avail myself in modified form 
of Wilhelm von Humboldt's opinion of the Kantian 
philosophy: There are some things that Weiss has 
shattered which will never be restored; some that he 
has founded which will never be destroyed, and he has 
pointed out the way along which the history of Judaism 
will have to move. 

This opinion of Weiss' achievements must not pre- 
vent us from recognizing the fact that impartial critics 
find much to rectify and much to supplement in the 
most important chapters of "The History of Tradi- 
tion." Especially, Isaac Halevy, in his Dorot ha- 
Rishonim, has offered us such valuable results that it 
would not be in the spirit of the master whose day of 
honor we are celebrating to maintain that he laid the 
foundations of the history of the Halakah and per- 
fected its structure as well. Nevertheless, the impor- 
tance of his great work is not impaired in the least by 
such criticism. Criticism has rather invested each 
chapter and each sentence that Weiss wrote, not only 
with peculiar charm, but also with imperishable value. 

But Weiss* great work has still another characteristic 
which makes it a popular book for the Jewish people in 
the best sense of the word popular. It is the one work 
of dominating importance in modern Hebrew, and this 


fact gives it influence over thousands, even millions, of 
Jews who draw knowledge and counsel only from He- 
brew books. Weiss' activity, therefore, is not only that 
of a scholar, but also that of a leader of his people. His 
ninetieth birthday is in the truest sense a festival of the 
Jewish people. 



"Before the destruction of the Temple, new souls 
descended from Heaven to earth ; after the destruction 
of the Temple, old souls only came down to Israel " 
Divested of its mystical garb, this passage, quoted 
from the great depository of mysticism, the Zohar, 1 
may be paraphrased in the words of a famous English 
critic: Genius living at a time of national glow of life 
and thought finds his elements ready at hand ; his work 
consists in giving expression to the ideas of his time; 
and such a genius is, to speak with the mystics, a new 
soul. Genius living at the time of national decline or 
decay finds a sort of equivalent, if not a complete one, 
for the nationally diffused life and thought in the 
treasures of the past. The national literature enables 
the man of genius to reconstruct in his mind the na- 
tional life and thought in which he may live and work. 
To speak with the mystics, the soul of such a man is an 
old one reborn. 

The tragedy of the Jews in modern times is not that 
they did not receive their full share of new souls, but 
that the new ones are not Jewish and the Jewish are 
not new. There is hardly any branch of human 
progress in modern times to which the Jews did not 
contribute their share, yea, more than their share, 
except in the field of Judaism. "They made me the 



keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have 
I not kept/' 

But truly the Lord forsaketh not His people. He 
gave us, when the need was greatest, Solomon Schech- 
ter. a His was a new soul, permeated with the best 
of modern thought, yet deeply rooted in the Jewish 
past. To grasp the phenomenal achievements of Dr. 
Schechter in the field of Jewish thought, to understand 
his position among the fathers of Jewish learning, one 
must start with a proper appreciation of his big 
Jewish soul. Wisdom, remarked a Jewish sage, two 
thousand years ago, does not enter into a heart which 
is not pure. 3 This truth was restated by a modern 
philosopher in the words: "Great thoughts originate 
in the heart." A tenacious memory, a quick percep- 
tion, and other mental equipments, do enable men to 
acquire information ; but to be a scholar or to use the 
Hebrew term, Hakam, "sage," who with creative 
power interprets the information acquired in his own 
way, one must be in possession of a great soul. 

Dr Schechter combined with great intellectual pow- 
ers a disdain for conventionality, a temper imperious 
and resolute, along with a most touching gentleness 
and sweetness and a singleness of heart and purpose. 
The key to Dr. Schechter the Scholar is Solomon 
Schechter the Man. Criticism, he remarks somewhere, 
is for him nothing more than the expression of con- 
science and he could as little dispense with it in 
literature as with common honesty in dealing with his 
fellow men. But his honesty compelled him to apply 
criticism also to criticism and this brought him in 


opposition to the idols of the day, the hypercritics for 
whom permanent doubt is the only certainty. Gentle 
as he was, he could admire enthusiastically any great- 
ness of action and character, however remote it was 
from his own sphere, but his own subject, Jewish life 
and thought, was the absorbing interest of his life. 

The love which he lavished in sketching the portrait 
of the founder of Hasidism is only equal to that which 
he expended in drawing the picture of the Gaon, Rabbi 
Elijah of Wilna, the deadliest enemy of Hasidism. His 
soul was so deeply Jewish that everything Jewish 
found an echo in it. Catholic Israel was with him 
more than a happy phrase it reflected his soul. Hence 
the marvelloubly wide range of his contribution to 
Jewish learning. It is no exaggeration to say that there 
is hardly any branch of Jewish literature, the knowl- 
edge of which was not enriched, hardly any period of 
Jewish history upon which new light was not thrown 
by Dr. Schechter's studies and discoveries. We owe 
him gratitude for both, for the original way of inter- 
preting the old, as well as the discovery of new facts. 
As in all empiric branches of human knowledge, so 
also in that of history the most important condition of 
progress is the discovery of new facts. But it is only 
he who masters the old that will be led to discover the 

Dr. Schechter, though long known to scholars, first 
became world-famous through his discovery of the 
Hebrew original of Ecclesiasticus. 4 He had recovered a 
priceless treasure that was lost for nearly a thousand 
years. But the discovery of the Hebrew Ben Sira 


means more than this. In his introduction to this 
publication, as well as in his Essay on 'The Study of 
the Bible 5 ," Dr. Schechter pointed out in his masterful, 
terse, lucid and convincing style the great significance 
of the discovery for biblical criticism. More than one 
house of cards erected by the higher critics tumbled 
down at one blow. The Hebrew original of Ben Sira 
revealed the fact that neither the Book of Job, nor 
that of Ecclesiastes, nor indeed any other part of 
the Hebrew Bible, could be ascribed to Maccahean 
times. Dr. Schechter showed us that even the higher 
critics must renounce their claim to infallibility, since 
their hypotheses are often more improbable than thobe 
they attempt to displace. 

The veil which covets the history of the religious 
and social life of the Jew in Maccabean times is thick. 
We hear of the rise of parties, the Sadducean and the 
Pharisean, which divided the nation. Modern historians 
not burdened by any first-hand information about 
these parties are ready with their explanations. But 
the very clearness of their presentation of the character 
of the parties is the best proof of its insufficiency. The 
life of a people does not lie on the surface. 

The discovery by Dr. Schechter of the Sectarian 
Document 6 , composed about 100 before the common 
era, is still more important than that of the original 
of Ben Sira. Through it we came to know that 
Judaism at that age represented a picture rich in 
composition, varied in light and shade, the interpreta- 
tion of which is highly important for the history of the 
development of later Judaism. We will always remain 


Dr. Schechter's debtors, not only for the discovery of 
this document and its interpretation, but also for 
signalizing its importance for Jewish history, theology 
and law, as he did in his scholarly introduction to this 
publication. The future historian of the Halakah will 
have to take his starting point from the Halakah of the 
Documents, the binding link between biblical and 
rabbinical law. 7 

The student of the Halakah, this most important 
but neglected branch of Jewish literature, owes much 
to Dr. Schechter also for some other invaluable 
material. I refer to the fragments of the three lost 
tannaitic Midrashim, 8 Mekilta of Rabbi Simon, Mekilta 
to Deuteronomy, and Stfre Zutta, discovered by Dr. 
Schechter. The Mishnah, the oldest halakic work, is 
but an extract of many works now unfortunately lost. 
Scientific study of the Halakah is only possible by 
making proper use of the tannaitic commentaries on 
the Pentateuch. 

In his ci itical edition of the haggadic collection, Abot 
de Rabbi Nathan, with introduction and commentary 9 , 
Dr. Schechter set a model for the future editions of 
rabbinic texts. The truth which has since become a 
truism, that the study of history necessitates the 
collection and edition in reliable form of its sourcesand 
documents, was discovered by scholars of the seven- 
teenth century, but among Hebrew scholars it had to 
be rediscovered in modern times. Dr. Schechter was 
the first to make use of all the manuscripts and first 
editions for his publication. A marvellous mastery of 
the Haggadah, talmudic, midrashic and rabbinic, is 


displayed in the notes to this edition as well as in his 
edition of the Agadat Shir ha-Shirim and the Midrash 

The centuries between the final redaction of the 
Talmud and the beginning of Jewish culture in the 
West, Southern Italy and Northern Africa, is one of 
the most obscure periods in the history of the Jews and 
at the same time one of the most important. Dr. 
Schechter's discoveries revolutionized our views con- 
cerning the history of the geonic times in a way un- 
dreamed of before. The letter of Rabbi Hushiel" 
dispelled with one stroke the legend of the four 
captives, with which Jewish history in the West was 
supposed to start. We know now, through Dr. Schech- 
ter's discovery, that Jewish life in Southern Italy, 
as well as in Northern Africa, stood under the influence 
of Egypt rather than under that of Babylonia. 

Dr. Schechter made us revise thoroughly our views 
about the importance of Palestine for the history of the 
Jews during the geonic period." We must admit now 
that neither Christian love nor Mohammedan hatred 
was able to destroy entirely the deeply rooted culture 
of the Jew in his native land. A good deal of what the 
Jew of Europe received from Egypt was of Palestinian 
origin. The geonic period was rich in great movements; 
Karaism, Mysticism, harmonization of Hellenism with 
Judaism are products of that age. An adequate 
estimate of the powers at work is only possible now 
in the light of Dr. Schechter's discoveries. 

In his studies of Anan's book of Laws 13 and of 
Saadia's writings, he gave us not only insight into the 


life and activity of the two greatest personalities of the 
period, but also the means for the understanding of the 
movements for which Anan and Saadia stood. Anan's 
work is the best proof of the fact that opposition to 
authority means but desire for change of authority. 
Anan tned to displace the authority of the Talmud, 
the product of a historical process of thousands of 
years, and to set up instead of it his own authority. 
In Saadia, the great defender of Rabbinism, we see 
the man who draws his inspiration from the past, and 
who also understands how to reconcile us with the 
present and to prepare us for the future. 

Dr. Schechter was fond of quoting the following 
words of Humboldt: "Through my intercourse with 
great men I early arrived at the conviction that with- 
out serious attention to detail all generalities and 
theories of the universe are mere phantasms/' In my 
attempt to sketch Dr. Schechter the Scholar, I en- 
deavored to show how Judaism became richer in 
historical points of view through his detailed work and 
great discoveries, how he has furnished us with sound 
material for a foundation upon which to build the 
structure of Jewish history. For this alone the name 
of Dr. Schechter deserves to be engraved with golden 
letters in the history of our greatest men. But Dr. 
Schechter was a creative nature, full of life and vigor. 
He did not find complete satisfaction in merely collect- 
ing material ; his real occupation was to call the dead 
to life, to give a soul to the dry bones. 

His portrayals of such men as Nahmanides, the 
Saints of Safed, the Gaon of Wilna, the founder of 


Hasidism, Krochmal, and many others 14 , are often 
described as popular, which is certainly a misnomer. 
It is true in these Essays one does not notice the 
scholarly scaffolding used by him in erecting his 
structure, but they are nevertheless the outcome of 
painstaking study and deep investigation. And if the 
Jewish people love and understand them, it is due to 
the fact that Dr. Schechter was not only an artisan in 
history, but also a great artist. The Dutch peasant of 
to-day admires and appreciates Rembrandt, not be- 
cause this great painter tried to gam the popular 
appreciation, but because he has penetrated into the 
depth of the soul of his people, and in looking at a 
Rembrandt the Dutch people recognize themselves 
in it. In truly Rembrandtesque fashion, Dr. Schechter 
portrayed in the lives of his heroes the ideals of the 
Jewish people. He interpreted the Jewish people to 
themselves, and as long as these ideals have not 
entirely disappeared from among us, we will continue 
to study, love and admire Dr. Schechter's sketches of 
Jewish life and men. 

If the history of the Jew is his soul, the soul of his 
soul is his religion. Dr. Schechter's great Jewish soul 
is best revealed to us in his work on Jewish theology. 
If it be permitted to put the label of a school on such 
an original man, we would best characterize him as the 
theologian of the historical school. A theological 
system cut after the pattern of historical philosophical 
standards undermines its own basis. A theological 
system which ignores philosophy and history must 
degenerate into mysticism and cant. Only a man 


whose intellect has been blended harmoniously with 
imagination can see the spiritual truth underlying the 
actual. Dr. Schechter, possessing this happy com- 
bination of a great mind and a great soul could see the 
actual truth as presented in history and the spiritual 
as seen in religion. 

What we look for in history are facts, in religion 
life, and only our soul fathoms the depth of life. Dr. 
Schechter's big Jewish soul penetrated into the soul 
of the Synagogue; where others saw only forms and 
ceremonials, he saw spirit and life. His theology 15 is 
not only a restatement of the facts of the religious 
life of the Jew, but also a new appreciation of them. 
There are fashions in religion as there are fashions in 
other things, some one remarked, but Dr. Schechter's 
religious and scientific conscience was repelled by the 
attempt made in recent times to turn the eternal 
truths of Judaism into a fashionable religion, to 
squeeze out of it the last drop of faith and hope, and 
make it acceptable to all and dear to none. Therefore 
his continuous combat against natural theology, this 
artificial product abstracted from some philosophical 
system, and his insistence upon the building up of 
Jewish theology on history. 

The material to be used for such a structure, he 
teaches us, is Jewish life as expressed in its main 
currents. The Synagogue alone in its development of 
thousands of years can decide what it considers to be 
genuinely Jewish and what as foreign to Judaism. 
Jewish theology which ignores the standard works of 
the Synagogue and overestimates the importance of 


those which the Synagogue has rejected, the pseud- 
Epigrapha, is indeed a pseudo-theology. It is primarily 
the rabbinic literature which must furnish us with the 
material for Jewish theology. At the same time it is 
still true that rabbinic literature wreaked its ven- 
geance on those who scoffed at it by remaining a 
sealed book to them. 

Even a correct translation of a rabbinic passage is 
often a monstrous misunderstanding of it. The 
platitudes about Jewish legahsm, the heavy burden of 
the law, the lack of spirituality of rabbinic Judaism, 
are not always due to prejudice and malice, much of it 
is rather due to ignorance, but as the rabbis of old say, 
"Error due to lack of study is a sin " Dr. Schechter is 
not an apologist of Judaism, but a teacher of it. He 
shows us that the law, far from being a burden to the 
observant Jew, is his greatest joy , that law is one of the 
highest expressions of spirituality as proved by the 
lives of the great teachers of the law who were at the 
same time the great saints of the S> nagogue, men full 
of love of God, His Law, His teaching and His people. 

The rabbis in their picturesque language remarked, 
"God counts the tears wept for the loss of the pious, 
and puts them in His treasury/' 16 Our grief for the 
departed master can indeed be turned into a heavenly 
treasure, if we attempt to lead the life and follow the 
ideals set to us by him. What was the life of Dr. 
Schechter but continuous labor in the vineyard of the 
Lord Jewish learning? And what were the ideals set 
to us by him? In his first public address in this country 
he stated that the paramount duty of American Jewry 


is the emancipation of Jewish science. If the science of 
history is the pride and ornament of a people, it is 
Israel's weapon and shield, a bulwark against enemies, 
a stronghold against derogation and misrepresenta- 
tion, but also the source of our rejuvenation, the 
spring from which we draw life and existence. If we 
continue the life work of Dr. Schechter, then we may 
well say, "He who has really lived, cannot really die. 
but will live on in us, not only his work, but himself." 



Commenting upon the passage in Zechariah where 
the four fasts in memory of the four great national 
disasters are enumerated, the sages of the Talmud 
remark, "The Fast of the Third of Tishri, that is, the 
Fast in memory of the death of Gedaliah, follows in 
Scripture immediately upon the fast of the Ninth of 
Ab, the day of the destruction of the Temple, to teach 
that the death of the righteous is as a severe a loss as 
the destruction of the House of God." 1 This remark of 
the Rabbis, though expressed in extravagant language, 
contains a very great truth. In the culture of the 
nation, and especially in its highest expression, re- 
ligion, two factors only count: Institutions and great 
individuals. It is only organized religion that makes it 
possible for men of each age to face the problem of 
the present enriched by the spiritual wisdom of the 
past. Yet while institutional religion is the stable 
background, it is only through the reaction of powerful 
minds and strong religious wills upon it that it de- 
velops with the developing life of society. Hence the 
death of a great man may well be said to be no less a 
calamity than the loss of a powerful institution. 

We are here assembled to commemorate the life and 
work of a man by whose spiritual influence the Juda- 
ism of our own day has been carried forward. David 



Hoffmann, by his gigantic intellect and saintly soul, 
has enriched Judaism so much that the enormity of 
the loss we have suffered in his death makes us turn 
our minds for a moment from the great evils that have 
befallen the Jew in recent times to the severe blows 
that have stricken Judaism. 

The life of David Hoffmann is briefly told. 3 He was 
born November 24, 1843 at Verbo, Hungary, now 
Czecho-Slovakia, as the son of Rabbi Moses Judah, 
the Dayyan of that place. A true prodigy, he was able 
to read the Pentateuch in Hebrew at the age of three, 
and when five years old he was introduced to the 
study of the Mishnah. His talmudic training he 
received from Rabbi Samuel Sommer, Rabbi of Verbo 
and later of Papa, from Rabbi Moses Schuck, of St. 
Georgien, one of the most prominent disciples of Rabbi 
Moses Sofer, the famous head of the celebrated 
Yeshibah of Pressburg, and from the latter's son and 
successor, Rabbi Abraham Samuel Sofer. 

He also attended for several years the Rabbinical 
School established by Doctor Israel Hildesheimer at 
Eisenstadt, Hungary, and we are safe in assuming 
that it was the influence of this very strong personality 
that led the young Hoftmann to devote part of his 
time to the study of secular learning. Thanks to his 
extraordinary talent and industry he was able, after 
a few years of preparation, to pass the final examina- 
tions at the German Gymnasium (College) of Press- 
burg. After graduating from College about the age 
of twenty, Hoffmann left this city for Vienna to take 
up the study of Oriental languages and History at the 


celebrated University of the Austrian Capital. He 
remained in Vienna three years and, after interrupting 
for some time his university studies, he continued 
them at the University of Berlin. He received the 
Doctor's Degree from the University of Tubingen in 
the year 1870. 

Needless to remark that Hoffmann did not neglect 
his talmudic studies during his university years. The 
main object of his studies continued to be the Talmud 
and rabbinic literature which he was now in a position 
to carry on in a modern scientific way. After holding 
minor teaching positions for several years, first at the 
preparatory Teachers' College of Rabbi Wechsler at 
Hochberg, Bavaria, and then at the Jewish High 
School of Frankfort on the Main, at the head of which 
stood Samson Raphael Hirsch, he was appointed in 
1873 Professor at the Rabbinical Seminary, founded in 
that year by Doctor Hildesheimer at Berlin for the 
training of rabbis for the Orthodox ministry. For 
almost half a century Hoffmann taught in this institu- 
tion Talmud, Codes, and the Pentateuch. On the 
death of Dr. Hildesheimer, in 1890, he was made 
acting president of the Seminary and in 1902 he be- 
came president. His activity as teacher and head of 
the Seminary continued to the very day of his death 
in November 1921. 

The bibliography of Dr. Hoffmann's books, essays, 
articles and editions given in the Jubilee Volume 
published on the occasion of his seventieth birthday, J 
extends over twenty-seven pages. It would therefore 
be futile to attempt within the limited time of a short 


address an adequate estimate of Dr. Hoffmann's 
learned productions, of his original contributions to 
the study of the Bible, of his epoch making researches 
into the origins of tannaitic literature and of his 
standard editions of classical works. My present 
endeavor will be of a very modest nature to sketch 
briefly what is new and original in Dr. Hoffmann, the 
modern interpreter of strict and uncompromising 

The problem of the Jewish religion in modern times 
not of Judaism, still less of the Jews has been and 
to some extent still is, how to bridge the cleavage 
caused in the life of the Jew by his emerging into the 
nineteenth century straight out of the fifteenth. The 
Middle Ages, aptly remarks Zunz, did not terminate 
for the Jew until the end of the eighteenth century. 
The predominating religion in civilized countries had 
almost four hundred years, from the Renaissance to 
the rise of German philosophy, in which to prepare for 
the struggle between modern thought and ancient 
faith, while the Jew had to face the same battle either 
entirely unarmed or with antiquated weapons. 

The first among the orthodox to grasp the problem 
was Samson Raphael Hirsch. But even he, though a 
religious genius of the first magnitude and a man of 
extraordinary mentality, did not comprehend the 
problem in all its depth and width. He was preemi- 
nently an esthetic nature, thoroughly imbued with the 
Greek ideal of humanism which alone gives man the 
sense of the harmony of life. The religious problem of 
the Jew accordingly presented itself to him mainly as 


one of feeling, viz. how to satisfy the feelings of the 
modern Jew by a life dominated by the Torah. His 
mission in life was the teaching that not only are the 
Jewish religion and the noblest forms of Greek culture 
compatible, but that they complement one another. 
In his one-sidedness he overlooked the obvious fact 
that the Greek genius also taught humanity once for 
all that what is must be comprehended as something 
that has come to be, and hence no harmonization 
between Judaism and modern thought is possible as 
long as we neglect to understand Judaism as a his- 
torical process. Of history Hirsch knew little and 
cared less. The great historical importance of Dr. 
Hoffmann is that he was the first to insist upon a 
critical understanding of orthodox Judaism which is 
possible only on the basis of a critical investigation of 
its authoritative sources, the Bible, the Mishnah and 
the Talmud. To him Orthodox Judaism was not a 
tottering structure which too bold a word may over- 
throw but, to use a metaphor of the Rabbis, ci tree 
deeply rooted, which neither wind nor storm can 
move from its place. He combated the uncritical 
method of the study of the Talmud not only from the 
point of view of a modern scholar but also as an ortho- 
dox Jew. The Synagogue never taught that ignorance 
is bliss; on the contrary, one of its maxims is, "the 
ignorant cannot be pious/* and to deprive Jewish 
studies of the benefits of true criticism is tantamount 
to the acme of ignorance. 

I think it was Renan who remarked that one who 
wishes to write a history of religion should have once 


believed but have ceased to believe. The second 
qualification is intended to represent the power of 
detaching oneself from one's subject. Yet the sym- 
pathy which comes from the first condition, that of 
belief, is surely the more important of the two. We 
Jews certainly have had enough of historians and 
writers who were detached from Judaism even to the 
point of hostility and we have good reason to be 
thankful for having had with us David Hoffmann, 
whose love of Judaism was the key to his understand- 
ing thereof. 

It is not a mere coincidence that Hoffmann, the 
representative of uncompromising orthodoxy and the 
strong opponent of higher criticism, was almost the 
only Jewish scholar of our times who devoted a good 
deal of his time and extraordinary ability to this 
branch of study. He did not approve of the ostrich 
policy of ignoring the problems raised by the modern 
investigators of the Bible, nor was he satisfied to 
dispose of them by a clever aphorism. As the micro- 
scope serves to make the wonders of nature seem all 
the more wonderful, so the criticism of Scripture can 
not be too searching and minute if only it be carried on 
by a "critic 1 * in the true sense of the word, that is, by a 
skilled and impartial judge and not by "a harsh 
examiner," a hostile fault finder. Hoffmann was 
prepared to receive and welcome the fullest light of the 
new learning, but he refused to be dragged at the 
wheels of those who would make of the work of God a 
book partly myth, partly dishonest legend, deliberate 
fabrications, containing history which is not history, 


and a code of laws made a thousand years after the 
time of Moses. Such criticism is the product of a 
shallow rationalism that makes of religion a mere 
poetic aspiration, a mere conception of the ideal. But 
religion is not that. It pertains and necessarily so 
to the supernatural. A supernatural religion that does 
not rest upon a supernatural foundation is not faith 
but superstition. 

Hoffmann was not frightened by a parade of seeming 
inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible. His 
biblical studies belong to the best that has been 
written against the Graf-Wellhausen construction of 
Jewish history. One cannot help admiring the acumen 
and independent mind displayed by Hoffmann in 
these studies, written at a time when the views they 
combat had fascinated by their novelty and daring the 
scholarly world, to the extent that they were pro- 
claimed as "the assured results of the best and latest 
scholarship." To-day very few will be found who still 
have the courage to speak of them as probable, still 
less as assured results. 

One of the weakest points of modern biblical 
scholarship is the entire disregard of the later develop- 
ment of Judaism. In his commentary on Leviticus 4 
Hoffmann showed how much one might learn from the 
Halakah as found in the tannaitic literature for the 
correct understanding of the legal parts of the Bible. 
When this work of Hoffmann appeared, one of the 
greatest Orientalists of the day described it as the 
most profound contribution to the understanding of 
Leviticus since Rashi 5 . 


The most important contributions of David Hoff- 
mann to Jewish learning and thought are, however, to 
be looked for in another field in that of the history of 
tannaitic literature. Judaism always taught that the 
God who could not speak would not be rational, and 
the God who would not speak would not be moral, 
hence for the Jew the idea of a written revelation may 
be said to be logically involved in the notion of a 
living God. Scripture however lends itself to endless 
interpretation. One finds in the Bible what one seeks 
there. Rabbinical Judaism, while it insists upon the 
infallibility of the written word, teaches at the same 
time that the Synagogue is its divinely appointed 
custodian or, to use the familiar terms, the oral Torah 
is co-eval with the written and of the same authorita- 
tive character. Such a conception of Judaism if applied 
in an uncritical and indiscriminate manner, harbors 
the great danger of burying Judaism under the debris 
of the past. 

David Hoffmann by his great mastery of the entire 
talmudic-rabbinic literature, his immense diligence, 
his critical acumen and his simple devotion to Ortho- 
dox Judaism, was the man to make a stand against the 
danger threatening Orthodoxy in Middle Europe from 
the neglect of Jewish learning. 

One of Hoffmann's earliest writings, his treatise, 
Die Zwt der Omer-Schwingung, though merely an 
archaeological study without the slightest trace of 
apologetics, is nevertheless one of the best defenses of 
the Orthodox doctrine concerning the origin of the 
oral law. In this work the rabbinic tradition concern- 


ing the day upon which Pentecost should be celebrated 
is shown to conform to the data ascertainable about 
the celebration of this festival in biblical times. Of a 
similar character is his work, Der Oberste Gerichts- 
hof'i in which he brilliantly refutes the view held by 
many modern scholars concerning the origin of the 
great Sanhedrin. He not only defends the historicity 
of the data found in rabbinic literature about the 
nature of the Sanhedrin, but traces back the origin of 
this institution to biblical times. 

While in these two books and in similar ones we 
meet Hoffmann as the champion of the doctrine of 
the high antiquity of tradition, he appears in other 
works in entirely different r61es. His two most 
learned studies are: Die Ervte Mischnah* and Zur 
Einleitung in die halachischen Midraschtm 9 . In both 
of them the author with the great lucidity peculiar to 
him introduces the student into the very workshop of 
the Tannaim and shows him the Halakah in the 
process of becoming. He shows us the gradual develop- 
ment of the Mishnah, the methods of study in the 
different schools of the old masters, and the different 
layers and strata in the old rabbinic literature. All of 
which warns us to be on our guard against confusing 
catholic truths and individual opinion, first principles 
and the guesses of genius, all mingled in the same 
works and demanding to be discriminated. These 
books of Hoffmann are still to-day indispensable to 
the student of halakic literature as they were at 
the time of their appearance, forty and thirty-seven 
years ago respectively. 


A Jewish legend run as follows: Once the Roman 
Government sent some people to Mount Nebo to 
locate the grave of Moses. They failed, however, in 
their attempt, those who stood on the top of the 
Mount thought they saw the grave in the valley and 
to those in the valley it appeared to be high on the top 
of the mount 10 . Thus legend expresses in its quaint 
way the uniqueness of Moses; from whatever point of 
view one looks at Israel's greatest master, from the 
highest peaks of human intellect or from the unfathom- 
able depths of the soul, his greatness is immeasurable. 

The master for whom we mourn was a true disciple 
of Moses, combining a gigantic intellect with the 
sublime and pure soul of the saint, in such a manner 
that the personality of David Hoffmann may be 
described as unique in the annals of modern Jewish 

Great in learning, great in saintliness, David Hoff- 
mann was also great in leadership. Orthodox Jewry 
in Middle and Western Europe recognized him as its 
true leader, and Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike 
gladly admitted that his leadership was a blessing not 
only for a section of Jewry but for all Israel. 

"Greater/' say the sages, "are the righteous when 
dead than when alive 11 ." By this the thought is 
expressed that sometimes the ideals for which the 
great and noble stand are realized by the people only 
after a great shock, when their loss arouses the people 
to a clear apprehension and appreciation of these ideals. 

The last few years have witnessed not only the ruin 
of millions of Jews but also the destruction of Jewish 


learning and culture in many lands, and in addition 
death has taken from us great leaders in the world of 
thought. American Jewry has responded and I am 
sure will further respond liberally and generously to 
the appeal made in behalf of the suffering Jew, but it 
is not at all cognizant of the great danger threatening 
Judaism. Judaism is not a hospital religion but 
primarily a spiritual and intellectual power. American 
Jewry is doomed to fail if in these days of great 
suffering and distress of the Jew, it will overlook the 
agony of Judaism. 

We are here assembled to give public expression of 
our grief for the loss Israel has suffered in the death of 
David Hoffmann who spent his life in noble self- 
sacrifice, in study, practice and love of the Torah and 
in devotion to the interest and ideals of Israel. The 
best way in which we can show our respect, honor and 
veneration for David Hoffmann is by attempting to 
realize here in America his great ideal the cultivation 
of Jewish learning. Then we may well say, "The 
memory of the righteous is for a blessing." 




Delivered in the Course of Public Lectures of the Jewish 
Theological Seminary of America, January 31, 1907. 

I Nedanm 4 la. 

3 'Am ha-Arez, literally "people of the land," is used in rabbinic 
Hebrew in the sense of an ignorant and uncultured person Comp. 
above pp 11 and 57-58. 

3 Learned man. 

Ginzburg-Marek, Ebhreskeya Narodm Piecm, Nos. 60-62. 

s Pesahim 49b. 

6 Bereshit R 65.19. 

7 39 1-11. The translation is that of Box, The Book of Sirach, 
in Taylor's, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, 1913. 

* Sofenm in tannaitic sources in the sense of scholars is a rhetor- 
ical archaism, comp Bacher, Terminologie I, 134 note 4 The 
Baraita, Kiddushm 66a, a quotation from a historical source 
composed before the beginning of the common era, has Vior* 'DDH 
which means, men versed in Jewish learning in opposition to 
D^iyn mow 'DDR, men learned in secular knowledge. See also ps.- 
Philo, Bibl Anhq. 24C* assimilabi sapienhbus qm de te nascen- 
tur\ the Hebrew original very likely read. ~HTK O'DDnn^ hvo 

"JDD 1K2C\ 

Baba Batra 2 la. 

10 Contra Apionem II, 18; com also Philo, Legatio ad Gaium, 
16 115 

II Yerushalmi, Hagigah I, 7; Pesikta, ed. Buber, XV, 120b. 

" On the cultural state of the Babylonian Jews in pre-amoraic 
times, comp Halevy, O'Jirtnn nnn Ila, 162-210, who for apol- 
ogetical reasons maintains that they had reached a high state 

of development centuries before the amoraic period. His view 


266 NOTES 

however is not acceptable, comp. Epstein, Revue des Etudes 
Juives XLIV, 45-62 

13 Baba Batra 22a 

14 Comp Berakot 17a, Sotah 2 la, Nedarim 55a, comp also 
Funk, Die Juden in Babylomen, Berlin 1902, 79 if. 

<s Berakot 47b 

16 On the early history of the Jews in Poland, see Dubnow, 
History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, translated by Fned- 
laender, I, 40 ff. 

17 The author of this saying is not known 

18 Responsa No 95, comp. also Graetz, Geschichte (fourth 
edition) IX, 57 note 1. 

19 On Simon Gdnzburg, see Maggid nmri mnoro nnSin IBD 

20 R. Jacob Pollak; comp Jewish Encyclopedia X, 114. 

21 On Lona, comp Horodetzki r\tfov 0*0, Drohobitzsch, 1896 
92 Comp the remarks of the author in Jewish Encyclopedia III, 

34 top 

23 Brantspiegel, chap 47 

2 * This regulation was first published by Gudemann, QueUen- 
schnften, 232-236, and reprinted by As>af t ^urn nn^inV nmpo, 99. 

*s Asaf, 1. c. 

26 Abrahams, Hebrew Ethical Wills, 210 

27 Responsa, No. 36, comp. also Mordecai, Baba Batra begin- 
ning and Asaf, 22-23, 180 

28 Comp. The School Regulation of the Community of Cracow 
of the year 1595, and see also R Moses Moraftschik in Asaf, 88, 
bottom, 98. 

39 Comp. the complaint against the teachers who waste the 
afternoon of the New Moon day, by R Judah ben Loeb, "low 
mwD, paragraph 12. 

30 School Regulation of Cracow in Asaf, 101 

31 The description of this ceremony is found in different ver- 
sions, that in the text follows nwon IDD as extracted from its 
manuscript by Giidemann, Geschichte d Erziehungswesens 1, 50-54; 
comp also the sources quoted by Asaf, 2-4 and 162. Whether 
the first lesson was given by the teacher, or the Rabbi of the 

NOTES 267 

community, cannot be stated with certainty as a in in the text is 

3 a On the "pedagogic Haggadah" see Gmzberg, Legends of the 
Jews V, 5-6, note 10 

33 R Abraham Hayyim Shor, D"n mm, Sanhednn 60b bottom. 

34 On Leviticus as the first book read in school, comp. Pesikta r 
ed Buber, VI, 60b and parallel passages by the editor See also 
Friedmann in the Introduction to his edition of the Mekilta 35. 

35 Comp. Note 24. 

3 6 See Asaf, Index s v mro 

37 R. Judah b Loeb, min'D IDIK 12. See also Moraftschik in 
Asaf, 94. 

38 Comp. Maybaum, Abraham JageTs Katechismus Lekach-tob f 
Berlin 1892 

39 Baba Mezia' 49a 

40 Makkot 24a, comp also nin^Nt, No. 36. 

41 Baba Mezia', 85a. 

43 R Isaac b Elyakim aio n 1 ? chapter IX. ed Amsterdam 93d r 

43 Brantsptegel chapter 47 

44 A small four-sided toy of the top kind like the tee-totum. 
Among the German Jews it is known by the name of trendel 
also spelled trandel and tranderl, comp. Low, Lebensalter, 288. 

<* Yebamot 109b 


Delivered in the Course of Public Lectures of the Jewish 
Theological Seminary of America, February 23, 1905. 

1 Gittin 56a-56b In Ekah R I, 5 the interview between the 
Rabbi and the imperator (Vespasian) reads quite differently. 
"ShirR 8 11 

3 Comp. Deutsch, The Talmud, p. 6. 

4 Foucher de Careil, Oeuvres de Leibnitz, I, 24. 

s This is the usual spelling, whereas Talmid Hakamtm is the 
only correct form as the plural Talmtde Hakamim shows. The 

268 NOTES 

mannuscripts of the Talmudim and Midrashim have in most 
cases preserved the correct form Talmid Hakamim. 

6 Yoma 86a. 

? Shabbat 75a. 

Berakot 58b. 

9 Joseph Scahger, Opus de emendatione temporum, 101. 

10 Prol ad Oseam, ed. Migne, XXV, 820 
" Yerushalmi, Megillah I, 9, 71c, bottom 

" Megillah 9b; Bereshit R. 36 8 and parallel passages cited by 

** Comp. Brull, Fremdsprachltche Redensarten in den 

Talmuden und Midraschun, Leipsic, 1869 

* On the importance of Ibn Koreish (flourished about 900-950) 
for the history of the study of comparative Semitic philology, 
comp. Eppenstem, Monatssehnft, XLIV, 486-507. 

x * Cicero, De Orator e, I, 44, 

rt Abot V, 22. 

v Comp. Hebrew Ben Sira 51 23. 

18 Abot I, 4 in a saying by Yose ben Joeser who lived about 
170 B C. E. 

19 Contra Apionem XX, 38 A contemporary of Joseph us, the 
author of II Baruch, likewise writes, "We have nothing now save 
the Mighty One and His Law (LXXXV, 3) R. Gershom, the 
"Light of the Diaspora/' who lived about a thousand years after 
these two authors, uses almost the very same words in describing 
the importance of the Torah for the existence of Israel Comp his 
penitential prayer (Sehhah) rvn IDJ for Ne'ilah according to the 
Ashkenazic ritual. 

80 Comp. Sanhedrin 32b 

n Comp. Letter of R Sherira, ed Lewin 82 and Mann, Jewish 
Quarterly Review (New Series) VII, 467-470. The last Gaon 
(head) of the Academy of Pumbedita was R. Hezekiah who 
presided over it after the death of R. Hai in 1038, comp. R. Judah 
Albarceloni, nnetn neo 87, top, and Mann /. c. 469-470. 

"* Abot R. Nathan 3 (beginning) : The School of Shammai says, 
one should instruct only him who is wise, humble, of good family 
and rich, but the school of Hillel says, one should instruct any- 

NOTES 269 

body who desires to learn See also Berakot 28a, the very strict 
policy of Rabban Gamaliel with regard to admission to the 

* Nedarim 81a. 

a Berakot 28a, comp also Yerushalmi, Berakot IV, 1 (end) 
where it is said that R Joshua was a "maker of needles." 

3 * Horayyot 13b, Kohelet R II, 17 On R Meir's activity a* a 
scribe, comp also 'Erubin 13a and Gittm 67a. 

36 Abot VI, 2. 

37 Derek Erez Zutta I The name D'DDn H'D^n *?v pm "Conduct 
or way of the wise" given to it by several authors of the 
Middle Ages is most appropriate, comp. the author's article in 
Jewish Encyclopedia IV, 528-529 

28 Berakot 17a R Meir Abulafia in his commentary on 
Sanhednn 50b takes K^rio in the sense of "pearl" and hence the 
opening words of this passage read A pearl in the mouth of the 
scholars of Jabneh Comp however the phrase ND1D3 tnnn 
occurring frequently in Yerushalmi, which shows that tibr\D in 
Babh must be derived from ^nn as Rashi and (psi*) Saadia ad 
loc have it 

3 Yerushalmi, Sotah I, 4 (16d), Wa-Yikra R 9 9 and in many 
other places, comp Caster, Exempla p. 117 No. 146 (145). 

30 Yerushalmi, Sanhednn II, end 

31 Yerushalmi, Baba Batra V, end 
Megillah 28a 

Abot VI, 4 (mm pp) 
M Yoma. 35b. 

as Nedanm 62a, Yerushalmi, Shebiit IV, 2, Kallah II, 5b, ed. 
Coronel. The version of the story given in the text follows Kallah 

* Abot IV, 5 



Delivered in the Course of Public Lectures of the Jewish 
Theological Seminary of America, January 11, 1906. 

1 Mohammed uses this expression to describe Jews, Christians 
and Sabeites who base their religion on written sources. 

270 NOTES 

3 See Schechter, Jewtsh Quarterly Review, XI, 643-ff. Comp 
also above p. 246. 

* Maimomdes, mm moWi ,T 3 10. 

* Comp Asaf, -junn nnWi^ rrmpo, Index, s v ^ID^JD 

s Comp. the Responsum by R Hai Gaon (939-1038) quoted 
by R Judah Albarcelom, D'nyn nco, 256. 

6 On non- Jewish students in mediaeval times, comp the 
standard work by Rash da! 1, Universities of Europe in the Middle, 

7 On the Requirements for Admission to the Mediaeval Univer- 
sity, comp Rashdall, op cit 

8 Goetting Gelehrt Anz 1879,1047 

y-nriD >ri2D, ed Warsaw 1874, 5bb Comp also Responsa 
of R Meir of Rothenburg, ed Cremona No 108 This great 
Talmudist in the middle of the 13th century accommodated in 
hisoun hou^e twenty-four students in t\ventv-four separate rooms. 

"> R Yozel, -WV ep!? r I, 33 bottom, 35, 36, 51, 97. 

" R Yozel, 57, 107 

Asaf, 81, 118, 120-121, 291, comp. also R Yozel, 97. 

** R Yozel, 103-104 

J R. Yozel, 153. The word Ketowes is very likely of slavic 
origin, comp. J A Joflfe, Pinkos, I, 129-1 H 

>s On this students' song, comp. Brtill, Jahrbucher, V 102-105 

"R. Yozel, 11,26. 

J 7 Rashdall, op cit. 

11 ynrio '3HJD, ed. Warsaw 1874, 86a (o'Dip*? at the end of the 

" Comp. Israel Davidson, Parody in Jewish Literature, New 
York 1907. 

80 I do not know of any reference to "the mock Rabbi" in tarly 
sources, it seems to be of comparatively recent origin. Comp. 
Asaf, 121. 

y % TiD 'JTi, end of O'Dip^ 

R. Yozel, I, 35, comp also ibid. 34, 43. 

8 * y-no 'jnn, catchword no'Hi nn'n nia^n 1010 -ft nn (middle). 

** Vnno jn, heading ]a 

R. Yozel, I, 116. 

NOTES 271 

36 Berakot 7b, bottom. 

7 R. Yozel, I, 141. 

a8 On R. Meir of Rothenburg, see the author's article in Jewish 
Encyclopedia, VII, 437-^40, see also Zimmels, Beitrage z. Ge- 
whichte d Juden, Vienna 1926. 

a Wisdom I 4 

30 Comp above, p 141. 

3 The salaried Rabbi is, comparatively speaking, of recent 
origin, comp Asaf, nimn nmpV, 19-28 

33 Nedanm, 37a 

" ^'nriD 3H3D, heading ] > D3, beginning, on the great cost of 
divorce, comp Asaf, nuain nmp^, 26 

w Asaf, mmn nmp 1 ?, 32 


Delivered before the Harvard Divinity School, July 6, 1920. 

1 Yerushalmi, Sanhedrm, X, 29c. 

3 With Hillel and Shammai the period of the "Pairs" lasting for 
about two centuries (ca 17J-30) ends Its history is still en- 
veloped in darkness. This much however seems to be certain that 
the Pharisaism of that period while forming a united front 
against Sadduceeism, was far from being uniform, and hence the 
"Pairs" as its leaders, the one representing the right wing, the 
other the left. 

3 Shabbat, 3 la; comp Moore, Judaism, II, 85-88. 

<Gal 5 4 

s ^KVI IBD, 20b, ed Wilna 1888, comp Ginzberg, Legends V, 
3, Notes 3-4 

6 Das Wesen des Chnstentums (many editions). 

'Sifre, Num 115 

8 Shabbat 105b 

Berakot 61b. 

" Abot IV, 17. 

Xl Mishnah Sotah, end. 

" Mishnah Yoma, end 

272 NOTES 

Yerushalmi, Berakot X, 13a, towards the end. 

* Simeon b Shatah, in Mishnah Ta'anit, III, 5. 

j s Hulhn 7b, the Hebrew word is the same for small toe and 
small finger, hence perhaps the small toe is meant. 

rt Yerushalmi, Shebi'it IX, 38d, comp. Matthew 10-29, "And 
one of them (sparrows) shall not fall on the ground without your 
Father " 

J ? Comp. Mekilta, Yitro 2, with regard to the righteous judge. 

18 Midrash Tehilhm 86, 1. 

19 Sifre, Deut 27. Philo expresses the same view in a somewhat 
different form, comp Gmzberg, Legends V, 4, note 6. 

20 Mekilta, Shirah, 3, 37a; comp Schechter, Some Aspects of 
Rabbinic Theology 199-201. 

31 Bereshit R. 24 7 and parallel passages by Theodor ad he. 
M Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, 117 
** Herford, Pharisaism, 66 (first edition) 

* The second benediction (o^iy nanw) of Shema* for the 

* Hermann Cohen, Judische Schnftcn I, 18. 


Second Zunz Lecture of the Menorah Society, delivered at the 
University of Chicago, December 29, 1920 

1 Megillah 28b, bottom 

a Yerushalmi, Berakot V, 9d 

1 Mishnah Bezah, beginning 

Kiddushin 49b 

5 Comp. the very pertinent remarks on this point by Moore, 
Judaism II, 287. 

* R Simlai, a Palestinian Amora about the middle of the third 
century is the first to mention these numbers, though it is quite 
possible that the computation originated with an earlier author- 
ity. The attempts of Halper, Book of Precepts, 1-5, to find traces 
of this computation in tannaitic sources are not successful. 
Midrash Hagadol I, 226 top, has it in a statement by the Tanna, 

NOTES 273 

R Eliezer b. R Yose this passage escaped Halper but there 
is no tellmg whether the number j"nn is not a later interpola- 
tion. Comp also Guttmann, nnxon nrra, 24 ff 

^ Yebamot 3b, bottom, ff and in many other passages of both 
Talmudim Comp Guttmann, Emlekony Block Moses 1-20 
(Hebrew section). I wish to call attention to the fact that the 
term used by the Tannaim is nryn vbh noTip mr y rnxo (comp. 
Mekilta Mishpatim 20) and not nryn vb nnn 'y 'D as in the 
amoraic terminology Guttmann has no references to tannaitic 

8 Law As a Means to an End, 209-211 

9 D 5 3 25 11 

10 A verbal promise to the poor is binding, comp. Baba Kama 
36b f bottom, see also Baba Batra 148b 

11 Baba Batra 133b 

12 Jacob adopted two sons of Joseph, comp. Gen. 48. 5-6. 
w Kiddushm 17b. 


Delivered In Commemoration of the Two Hundredth Anni- 
versary of his Birth at the Jewish Theological Seminary of Amer- 
ica, April 11, 1920 

1 Rabbi Abraham Wilna, m^ myo 18, ed Wilna 1894 

3 Hillel N Stemschneider (Maggid), *fr\\ -vy 9-10; Dem- 
bitzer, cr n^3 1, 7 la The head of the Yeshibah at Lemberg 
vjDr Olio "ino jwana in mentioned by Dembitzer, 29b is per- 
haps identical with 'nsrtt in, the father of R. Moses. On the 
epithet Ashkenazi used by the German emmigrants to Poland, 
see Dembitzer II, 111. 

3 R Israel Y^fe ^tor* "n, Introduction. 

<R Abraham Wilna 1 c 18, comp also Finn HJDKJ nnp 99 

5 Joshua H. Lewm, irr!? nr^y 53, ed Stettin, and more fully 
Stemschneider, 152-153, end of note 3. 

6 Foreword to o"n miK ,"un mna where, acccording to Le- 
win, 53 note 2, B'n is to be read instead of a 'en. The reason 

274 NOTES 

given by him for this emendation is not intelligible to me, as 
nothing is said there about Tuesday having been the first day of 
Passover in the year of the Gaon's birth. In the foreword to 
irr!?N nw (Lemberg 1799) it is stated that the Gaon was about 
twenty in the year 1'opn, which is quite impossible. With regard 
to the birthplace of the Gaon, it is to be remarked that the 
statement in foreword to N'njn m3 about his father's resi- 
dence in Seltz does not warrant the generally accepted opinion 
that the Gaon was born in that tov,n At the age of five we find 
him in Wilna and it is likely that he was born there. 

7 Foreword to irr^N miK ed pnnceps 

8 Foreword to m ,K'i)n ma 

* R. Hayyim of Volozhm in foreword to my'n K-IDD ^y iiK'3. 

10 R. Israel of Minsk, ]vh97\ nno (Introduction) and comp. the 
sources referred to in notes 6-7 , comp also foreword to . . iiK'3 
Vnm ^3 hy Wilna 1810. 

11 R. Baruch of Shklow in the Introduction to his Hebrew 
translation of Euclid 

M R Abraham Simhah (in his letter to Kalmann Schulmann, 
in the latter's omrrn mon^o) quoting his uncle R Hayyim of 
Volozhm as authority for this statement 

** About 1756 one of his daughters was to be married (comp. 
Stemschneider, 152) and accordingly he must have married early 
in life. The maternal great-grandfather of the author, R Solomon 
of Neustadt, author of ni3K n'3, was advised by the Gaon, his 
granduncle, to marry at the age of eighteen, oral communication 
by R. Solomon's daughter 

14 Lewin, 65; comp. also 75, note 75 and 84, note 106 as well as 
R. Abraham Wilna, 12 which passages indicate that the Gaon 
must have lived for some time in Kaidan. The statement, how- 
ever, that the Gaon at the age of seven studied there under R. 
Moses Margalit, the famous author of the commentary nro *i 
on the Talmud of Jerusalem (died at Brocly 12 Tebet 5541, comp. 
Jahrbuch d.judisch-hter. Gesellschaft 1920, 132) is based solely on 
Lewin's authority (55) which is open to question. The exact 
date when the Gaon settled permanently in Wilna is not known; 
Finn, 133 gives 745 (n'pn is a misprint for n'pn) and refers to 

NOTES 275 

the biographical sketch by the Gaon's sons in the foreword to 
n'lN ,N'i)n mto as his source Nothing however is found there 
which has any bearing on this point, comp also Finn, 124 

15 Finn, 133 A granddaughter of R Moses was the wife of R 
Elijah, the great-grandfather of the Gaon, comp Finn, 96. 

16 Eybeschutz nny nnA 7 la, ed. Altona. There is not the 
slightest reason for doubting the genuineness of this letter, which 
is also referred to in the foreword to in^N rmr ed. Lemberg 1 799. 

*7 R. Abraham Wilna, 13. Comp. also the text of the memorial 
tablet in Finn, 155, where it is explicitly stated that the Gaon 
taught in the same place for forty years to be accurate, thirty- 
seven years and six months, comp above page 131, end and not 
eighteen as Finn, 139, erroneously has it The n' years men- 
tioned in the foreword to n'lK ,N"un ma, if not a misprint 
for n'V, cannot therefore refer to the establishing of the Bet 
ha-Midrash. See also R Hayyiin of Volozhm's remarks in fore- 
word (end) to the commentary on the Mishnah by the Gaon 

18 See Baba Mezi'a, 33a and comp also the stones about 
Hillel, Rabban Johanan b Zakkai, and Rabbi Akiba, Sifre, Deut. 
357, 150a 

'9 R Baer b Tanhum, an n*yo, Nos 127, 162-164, 170, 175, 
193, 195, 225, 227, 229 

30 Comp the sources quoted in notes 4-6 and 17 

ai R Abraham Danzig OIK noDn 133, 24 On the considerably 
large amounts of money placed by the community of Wilna with 
the Gaon for charitable and educational purposes, see also 
Stemschneider, 104 and 120, end of note 1 The fourteen hundred 
guilders given annually to the Gaon (Bershadzki, Litowskie 
Ebhrei 50) were of course for disbursement among the poor and 
not for his own use Harkavy (Comp. his letter in Schapiro 
0"n '1 nn^in) is to be corrected accordingly. 

" Finn, 138-146, Lewm, 88a-90. 

* Published under the title N'-un hy TBDH by Abraham 
Katzenellenbogen o'Dm nyr Wilna, 1871. See also the second 
lon by Danzig in *?prn . . "i nwx Wilna, 1871, where thirty- 
five of the Gaon's writings are said to have been on the Kabbalah. 

14 Foreword to jn^rn HKB; comp. also his letter to the Ten 

276 NOTES 

Tribes (printed several times) where he gives the number of the 
Gaon's works as seventy-two. 

a * Zedner's Catalogue contains almost a complete list of the 
works of the Gaon published before 1870; on the unpublished 
ones, comp. Nathan Coronel's nrrri, (London 1871), and Lewin, 
94-116. Most of the manuscripts recorded by Coronel are in the 
Library of Baron Gunzburg (comp. Stemschneider, 171, note 5), 
where also are to be found those formerly in possession of R 
David Luria. No trace however has been found of the missing 
part of his commentary of the Mishnah of which only that to the 
Orders I. and VI. (of II only that on Shabbat) is printed, while 
his son-in-law, the editor of vr^K nw, possessed also that on 
Order V. In the foreword to imm hy -HK3 3a, ed. Wilna 1810, 
his son and grandson speak of his commentary on the entire 
Mishnah I^ID nD^ "D3 iryn^ K^DH. 
86 R. Israel of Minsk in the foreword to )n^n nHD. 
** Only his commentary on Shulhan Aruk and his treatises on 
trigonometry r^iro ^'H and parts of nniK hy nwa were printed 
from his autograph manuscript Comp Lewin, 95 and 116 top 
a * Comp. note 25 
3 Foreword to mn ,N"un mna. 

* For one who is acquainted with his commentary on the 
Shulhan Aruk, this statement does not need any further proof 
Comp. also the high praise of the Pilpul in nrun no3 hy n'3, 
heading non K^TTM and commentary on Proverbs 14 4. 
** Quoted by R Hayyim of Volozhin, r^iron Din, No 9, p 39 
J * The emendations of the text of the Talmud by R. Solomon 
Loria and R. Joel Sirkes are almost entirely based either on man- 
uscript readings or upon old authorities. 

His works, especially the commentary on the Mishnah and 
that on the Shulhan Aruk, contain numerous explanations of 
the Talmud different from those given by the old authorities and 
not a few explanations of the Mishnah which differ from those 
offered by the Amoraim; comp. f. e , Berakot 4 1 and 7 3. The 
author of the book *)D3n p'a) yai Shklow, 1894, a disciple of the 
Gaon, has on folio 25b, bottom, the very interesting remark, 
rvn Dwa t -m naront ^xr pnn I'D 'jrmo viywn. In other words, 

NOTES 277 

the Gaon was of the opinion that in explaining the Mishnah or 
other tannaitic sources, one is to follow his good sense and not 
authority. See also R. Manasseh b Porat nvio 'B^ 38b and 
73b on the original method applied by the Gaon m explaining the 
Bible and the postbiblical literature. 

34 Commentary on Prov. 14 2, 22 5 and Is 114. Comp. also 
the references in R. Samuel Malzan, no^t p, Wilna, 1890, 9a. 

35 Commentary on Prov. 24 31 and 25 4 

3 6 Commentary on Deut. 1.13 and Prov. 13 4 

37 Commentary on Prov. 11 17. 

38 Commentary on Prov. 411 and 31 11. 

39 R Hayyim of Volozhm in his foreword to imrn hi hy iwa 
writes <jD"n rmxD> YID virb f wn vn ]"iy iiD^nn 'Dan *D'a "] 
'ipn "riD^n ono] nrtoi "m m jua nn'n *nn^ pi . ..(nauri 13) n'3 ]i 
rpnpn VDID b3a (rnpn-) 'n no^n nai VD n '"p 1 ?! 'iryV H^H 13^ ]. 
There can be no doubt that R Hayyim stated in these words 
the view of his master, the Gaon, on the unique position of the 

40 Quoted literally by R Hayyim in one of his responsa Comp. 

Din No. 9 and slightly censored by the editors 1 "i n'w 
3ie ov The commentary of the Gaon on the Shulhan 
Aruk shows almost on every page that he strictly adhered 
to his principles. 

41 Finn, 133. 

43 Eybeschutz nny nm^ 71b, ed. Altona 

Foreword to ai nryo by R Baer ben Tanhum 

44 Foreword to n'i ,K"un ma 

R. Israel of Minsk, foreword to jnWn nfl, 

46 R. Abraham Wilna, in^ nnyo, 12. It might not be out of 
place to note here that this little book containing very valuable 
material for the life story of the Gaon is not known at all to his 

The Talmid Hakam is forbidden many things which are 
permitted to ordinary men; comp. f. e. Shabbat 142b-143a; 
Mo'ed Katan, lib; Ketubot 52b. 

278 NOTES 


Delivered in the Course of Public Lectures of the Jewish 
Theological Seminary of America, February 25, 1904 

1 Midrash Tehilhm, 92, 412 ed Buber. 

3 Comp. Ahad Ha- Am, o % 3"n nma hy I, 178 (3d edition) 

3 Most of the material in this essa> is based on oral communica- 
tions which the author had received in his earlv youth from his 
teachers R. Isaac Blaser, R. Naphtah of Shat and R. Loeb 
Raschkes, three distinguished disciples of Salanter. Some 
episodes given here have been told to the author by his father 
who was well acquainted with Salanter. I add here a selected 
list of the more important books, essays and articles on Salanter 
and the moralist movement in Lithuania Blaser, ^mr' "IIH 
Wilna, 1900 (the most important source for the life and teaching 
of Salanter) ; Benjamin, R. Israel Lipkm Salant, \ 899 (in German) , 
Feldberg, 'nor mp, 1884, Finn, ^mr no 1886 (pp 697-698), 
Ehezer Elijah Friedman, nunDrn ifio Tel-Abib 1926 and in 
vinn (Jerusalem) VI, nos. 10-12, Mark, D"x nyriw pc o'^nj 
1927 (pp 97-104); Obzmski, TjK^-npa omrrn n:rr nn^in 1908 
(pp. 56-63); Rosenfeld, -ID&D ^mr* 'n 1910 (in Hebrew and 
under the same title also in Yiddish), Stemschneider, IO^T) Ty 
(pp. 128-133); Wemberg, moion inmrn Vmr 1 1131 in jm^n ed 
Elbmger, Warsaw, 1912 See also D^D Smr' ' nwm 1912 
(mainly a reprint of ^H^r 1 n). 

< On R. Zundel, comp. E. Rivlm BJH^DD Viyi? )ov 'n pnxn IBO 
rnum Jerusalem, 1927 

* Comp. R. Baer b Tanhum an nryo no 61 , on the influence of 
the Gaon on R. Zundel, comp. Rivlm, 4 

* Blaser, 79. 

7 On Lilienthal, see David Philipson, Max Lilienthal, New 
York, 1915. 

1 Shapiro was a disciple of the famous scholar R. Manasseh Ben 
Porat and like his master had great independence of mind. 

This witty remark by Shapiro is only a variant of the Mid- 
rash ic statement, Bemidbar R. 5.2. 

NOTES 279 

10 Comp. Benjamin, 27-29. 

11 The name of this Maecenas was Lachman, but he insisted 
that his name be kept a secret 

" It was published under the title ns py, Wilna, 1881. 

'3 Sotah 3a 

' Makkot 24a. 

is nD py 26a-26b 

16 Mishnah Yoma (end). 

J 7 This episode was told to me by my father who was present 
at the visit paid by Salanter to my grandfather, R Asher Ginzberg, 
the president of the congregation, whom Salanter had publicly 

18 Mark, 76, gives a somewhat different version of this incident, 
but the one given in this essay is on the authority of the author's 
uncle, R. Loeb Raschkes, whose reliability cannot be questioned, 
as he was a pupil of Salanter. 

19 This episode was told to the author by his father. 

30 This story was told to the author by his teacher, R Isaac 


Delivered in Commemoration of the Century of His Birth 
before the Ohole Shem Society, New York, October 6, 1Q01 

1 Comp above pp 125-144 

a On R Abraham Wilna, the son of the Gaon, see Kauffmann, 
Monatsschnft XXXIX, 136-137 

a Comp Mordecai Plungian, mis p Wilna, 1858 

Comp Finn, ^mr* nD, 301 

s His critical notes on the Midrash Rabbah show him to have 
been a scholar of great acumen. 

6 There is only one comprehensive biography of Frankel, that 
by Saul Phmeas Rabbmowitz (Yw) Vypane mar '-, 1898; 
comp also Brann, Zacharias Frankel, Breslau, 1901, a collection 
of articles and essays on Frankel by the editor and others. 

280 NOTES 

7 Comp. Hirsch, Gesammelte Schnften VI, 368-434 , Auerbach, 
naron 'DTT hy nsixn Frankfurt, 1861; Klein, D*p D and noun 
Un oArm Frankfurt, 1861; Fischer, in Hirsch 1 c. 322-367. 

Kampf TiD p'nDD Prague, 1861; Rappaport, now oi^ nai 
Prague, 1861. 

X, 159-160 


Paper written on the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of 
his birth for The Jewish Comment, Baltimore, February, 1905. 

* His autobiography 'rrnnDf, Warsaw, 1895, contains most of 
the data found in this essay. 

a He was the author of a very learned commentary on Arama's 
works pnr rrrpy and nrp rmn published with the text under the 
title, D"n "npo rrvo . .na -nyi . nrp rmn . ineo . pmr rrrpy IBD 
Presburg, 1849. 

s Comp R Baruch Shklov in his preface to the Hebrew Transla- 
tion of Euclid, see also above p 129 

Comp f"nno n'ir No 3 

5 Judnche Zeitschnft fur Wibienschaft und Leben, II, 64 

6 Ibid. IV, 99 

7 Schechter, Studies in Judaism I, 182-212, gives a masterful 
appreciation of this great work by Weisb. 


Delivered at the Schechter Memorial Exercises of the Jewish 
Theological Seminary of America, January 3, 1916 

1 Quoted from the Zohar in uaitn oipb 1 beginning of im but 
not found in our texts 

9 For biographical and bibliographical material on Schechter, 
comp. Adler, Solomon Schechter, A Biographical Sketch (from 
American Jewish Yearbook, 1917); Bloch, Professor Solomon 
Schechter (reprinted from Hebrew Union College Monthly, II 

NOTES 281 

Nos. 4 and 5) and Marx, Solomon Schechter (reprinted from 
Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, 1917). 
Comp. also, Schechter Memorial, Students' Annual, III, 1916. 

3 Wisdom 1 4. 

The Wisdom of Ben Sirah, Cambridge 1899. The first formal 
announcement of the discovery was made by Dr. Schechter in 
The Expositor, July, 1896. 

s Studies in Judaism, II, 31-54 

6 Documents of Jewish Sectaries, I, Fragments of a Zadokite 
Work, Cambridge 1910 

7 Comp. the author's book, Eine Unbekannte judtsche Sekte, 
1922, pp. 148-220. 

8 Mekilta, R. Simeon in Jewish Quarterly Review (New Series), 
1904, 443-445; Mekilta on Deut. ibid, 446-452 and in Lewy- 
Feshchnft, 187-192, Sifre Zutta, in Jewish Quarterly Review, VI, 

9 A both De RabH Nathan, Vienna, 1887 

10 Agadath Shir ha-Shinm, Cambridge, 1896; Midrash Hag- 
gadol, Cambridge, 1902 

Jewish Quarterly Review, XI, 643 ff 

" See especially the fragment published in Saadyana, Cam- 
bridge 1903. 

x * Documents of Jewish Sectaries, II, Book of the Commandments 
by Anan, Cambridge, 1910 

x Comp Studies in Judaism, I and II, Philadelphia, 1896 and 

x See especially his work, Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, 
New York, 1909 

16 Shabbat, 105b. 


Delivered at the Hoffmann Memorial Exercises of the Jewish 
Theological Seminary of America, January 22, 1922. 

x Rosh ha-Shanah, 18b 

For biographical material, comp. Barischanski and Libschitz 

282 NOTES 

in inwK hy nsiyn ~\DKD oy . . pznn . . .no jnn^i TU niynoa 

nnyni noipn jra3 .'!? D*-I no ...rryion imuyi 
Jerusalem 1Q28; Marx, United Synagogue Recorder, 
II No. 1, Tschernowitz, nmpnn XIII, 479-491; Jeschurun, 
IX, 1-19. 

Festschrift z. Siebzigsten Geburtstage David Hoffmann's, Berlin, 

* Das Buck Leviticus ubersetzt und erklart, Berlin 1905-06. 

s Joseph Halevi, Revue Semitique, XV, 114 

6 In Jahres-Bencht d. Rabbiner- Seminars fur das orthodoxe 
Judenthum, Berlin, 1874. 

' In Jahres-Bencht, Berlin, 1878 

8 Berlin, 1882; a Hebrew translation by S Grunberg was 
published under the title nnrmn naron Berlin, 1913. 

9 Berlin, 1888. 

" Sifre, Deut. 357, 150a, 
Hullin 7b. 



Abba Arika Amora, 49, 54, 225 
Ab Bet Dm, 51 
Abbot de Rabbi Nathan, 245. 
Abraham ben David, 227 
Abraham son of Elijah Wilna, 

196, 273',<, 274'<, 275", 277*, 

279 a . 

Abraham Simhah, 274". 
Abtahon, tanna, 48, 116. 
Abulafia Meir, 269 a8 . 
Agadat Shir ha-Shinm, 246 
Akiba, tanna, 27, 53, 95, 100, 


Albarcelom Judah, 268", 270* 
Alphabet, the, 21, 22, 175 
'Am-ha-Arez, 2, 11, 57, 58. 
Anan, 246, 247, 281" ? 
Arama, 280* 
Arba'-Kanfot, 16. 
Aristotle, 70 
Ashkenazi Moses ben David 

Kraerner, 25, 126 
Ashkenazim, the, 3, 64, 66. 
Amerbach Benjamin, 207, 280? 
Augustine, 116. 

Baal Shem Tob, Grael, 148, 

Baer b. Tanhum, 275", 277*, 


Bahya, 155. 
Baruch of Shklow, 274" 280*. 

Behelfer, 31, 32. 

Ben Sira, 6, 86, 268", 243, 244. 

Ben Zeeb, 221 

Bene-Barak, 49 

Benet Mordecai, 235. 

Berakot, 14 

Barcelona, 36. 

Bet Talmud, Hebrew Monthly, 

Bet Wa'ad la-Hakamim, of 

assembly of the wise, 48. 
Beth ha-Midrash, 5, 47, 50, 51, 

152, 232; of Vienna, 231. 
Beth ha-Seper, 5. 
Bible, the, 5, 21, 23, 24, 38, 45, 

59, 63, 70, 127, 205, 213, 255, 

257, 259; Greek translation 

of, 213, 218. 

Blaser laac, 278',*, 279" 
Bossuet, 38. 
Boswell, 115. 
Braude Hirsch, 149. 
Brest-Litovsk, 37. 

Caesar, 113. 
Calvin, 116. 
Campanton Isaac, 233. 
Careil Foucher de, 267. 
Caro, Joseph, 64. 
Celsus, 44. 
Chajes, Hirsch, 225. 
Cicero, 46, 70, 268. 




Cohen Hermann, 272 a . 
Comte Auguste, 1. 
Cordova, 36. 
Cracow, 37. 

Dampierre, 36. 

Danzig Abraham, 132, 275", 33 

Dardake Mclamed, primary 

teacher, 24, see also Melamed. 
David, 96, 99. 
Diderot, 44. 
Drehdel, a game played on 

Hanukkah, 32. 

Ecclesiasticus, Hebrew original 
of, 243, Comp. Ben Sira 

Emhorn Wolf, 196. 

Eleazar C. Harsum, tanna, 56 

Elhanan ben Shemanah, 61 

Ehezer ben Hyrkanos, 100. 

EHezer b R Yose, 273' 

Elijah, the Gaon, 83, 125, 144 

Elijah the saint, great grand- 
father of Elijah Wilna, 126, 
127, 129. 

Elijah Wilna marriage, 129, 
his works, 132-3, mention- 
ing of, 141. 

Emden, 129 ? 

Esau, 5. ? 

Essenes, the, 88, 89. 

Esther, 32. 

Euclid, Hebrew Translation of 
280J ? 

Ezra, 2 

Exilarch, 54, 55. 

Eybeachuetz Jonathan, 129- 
130, 275'*, 276*. 

Frankel Zechanah, 193, 216. 
Frankfort Conference, the, 199- 

201, 203. 
Fischer, 280*. 
Fnedmann Meir, 232, 233, 


Gabirol, 139, 155. 

Gabriel, angel, 101. 

Gamaliel, 92 

Gamhel II, 51, 269" 

Gedahah, 252 

Geiger, 200, 203, 204, 215, 216, 

227, 230, 232. 
Gerona, 36. 
Gershom R , 268". 
Gersomdes, 139 
Ginzberg Asher, 279". 
Goethe, 33, 44. 
Gospel, the, 94, 102 
Graetz, 199, 205, 228, 229, 266" 
Grodno, 37. 
Gottlieb Fischer, 207 
Gunzburg Baron, Library of, 

Gunzburg Simeon, 13, 266 l , 

Habakkuk, 168 

Habdalah, the, 74. 

Hadrian, 49 

Haggadah, the, 106, 115, 128, 
232, 236, 245 

Hai Gaon, 233, 268", 270. 

Halakah, the, 41, 42, 43, 106, 
109, 110, 111, 112, 114, 115, 
117, 119, 124, 211,212,213, 
215, 227, 232, 236, 237, 235, 



258; Jewish thought as re- 
flected in, 260, Chap V. 
Halakic Literature, the, 113. 
Halevy Joseph, 282. 
Haman, 32. 
Hamburg Temple Verein, the, 

Hannah, wife of Elijah Gaon, 

Hasmoneans, the, see also 

Maccabees, 7. 
Hasidic movement, 131, 154, 

Hasidism, 148, 165. 
Haskalah movement, the, 153, 

Hayyim of Volozhm, 150, 

274V, 275", 276", 277'V 
Hebrah Musar, 155. 
Heder, the, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 

23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30, 32, 33, 

65, 70, 221. 
Hegel, 111. 
Heine, 45, 118, 128 
Herder, 44. 
Hezckiah Gaon, 268" 
Hieldesheimer Israel, 230, 253, 

Hillcl, tanna, 48, 57, 89, 92, 

10^, 110, 118, 268 M , 270', 


Hirsch, Samson Raphael, 280?. 
Hoffman, David, 252-262. 
Holdheim, 200 
Horwitz, Lazar, 229, 230 
Humboldt, 247. 
Hushiel R. f 61, 246. 

Ibn Koreish, 45, 268 1 '. 
Isaac b. Elyakim, 267^. 
Isaac ben Samuel, 67. 
Isaiah, 229. 
Israel of Minsk, 132, 274", 

276*, 277. 

Isserlem, 75, 79, 81, 82. 
Isserles Moses, 13 

Jabneh, 35, 36, 49, 51, 53 

Jacob, 5, 15, 19, 273". 

Japhet, 45 

Jerome, Church Father, 44. 

Jesse, 99 

Jesus, 89, 91, 92, 94, 100, 104, 


Job, 244. 
Johanan ben Zakkai, 35, 36, 

48, 273' 8 

John, prince of Saxony, 198 
Joseph, 273" 

Joseph II, emperor, 220, 222. 
Josephus, 9, 49, 129, 268 1 ' 
Joshua ben Korha, 51, 145, 

146, 269'4 
Judah, Compiler of the Mish- 

nah, 2, 20, 30, 213 
Judah, father-in-law of Elijah 

Gaon, 129 
Judah ben Loeb, 266", 267" 

Kabbalah, 67, 219 
Kaempf Saul, 207, 280 8 
Karaism, 231. 
Katzenellenbogen Abraham, 

Kepler, 139. 



Ktddush, the, 74. 
Kirchheim Raphael, 207. 
Kitah, Kttot, 25. 
Klein Wolf, 207, 280'. 
Kompert, 228, 229. 
Krochmal, 196, 216, 219, 225, 
234, 238, 248. 

Lachman, 279" 
Leibnitz, 38, 139. 
Lewm Joshua Hoeshel, 268", 
273s, 6 , 274<4, 275 M , 276*,". 
Lihenthal Max, 153, 154 

Maccabees, 2. 

Maimonides, 139, 164, 218, 

227, 233, 270* 
Manasseh ben Porat, 196, 

277", 278 

Margalit Moses, 274 1 * 
Mannheimer, 229, 230 
Maraftschik Moses, 266", 


Maskthm, 26 
Mayence, 36 
Meilishen Academy in Wilna, 


Meir, tanna, 53, 54, 116, 269* 
Meir of Rothenburg, 79, 270, 

Mekilta, the, 133, 213; of Rabbi 

Simon, 245; to deuteronomy, 

Mdamed, teacher, 26, 28, pi 

Melamdim, 221. 
Michael, angel, 101. 

Midrash, pi. Midrashim, 5, 6, 

55, 70, 133, 227. 
Midrash Haggadol, 246 
Mi-Misrah urni- Ma'arab, a 

Hebrew monthly, 235 
Mishnah, the, 11, 38, 59, 133, 

138, 207, 208, 211, 213, 214, 

232, 253, 260. 
Mitnagdtm, 155. 
Mohammed, 269 1 . 
Mbln, Jacob ha-Levi, 79. 
Montpelher, 36. 
Moralist movement, the, 16, 

see also Musar movement, 

and R Israel Salanter 
Mordecai, 32. 
Moses, 15, 19, 208, 258, 261, 

book of, 23, 104 
Moses, one of the four captives, 

61, 273', 275". 
Moses Judah, Dayyan of Verbo, 

Moses Rivke's, an ancestor of 

Elijah the Saint, 129 
Musar literature, ethico-rehg 

ious books, 151, 158. 
Musar movement, 158 
Musar-Stuebcl, 157, 158, 169. 

Nachmaindes, 247 
Naphtah of Shat, 278* 
Napoleon, 96. 
Narbonne, 36. 

Nathanson Joseph Saul, 225. 
Nehardea, 36, 49. 
New-Testament, the, 94. 



Noah, 45 
Noldeke, 73. 

Oenomaos of Gadara, 5. 
Oppcnheim Baer, 224. 

Pascal, 109 
Paul, 92, 93, 236 
Pckim, 49 
Perls, Moses, 222 
Peruthim, the 161. 
Pharisaism, 88, 89, 91, 92, 105 

and Pharisees, 8, 9, 57, 88, 

89, 91, 96, 97, 98, 100, 102, 


Phidias, 42 

Phihppson, Ludwig, 230. 
Philo, 265V", 272". 
Pindar, 42 

Plato, 42, 98, 138, 195, 218 
Plungian Mordecai, 279*. 
Pollak, Hayyim Joseph, 221, 


Pollak, Jacob, 14, 266" 
Polycletus, 42 
Posen, 37 
Porphyry, 44 
Pumbedita, 36, 50. 

Rachel, wife of Akiba, 27. 

Rarneru, 36. 

Rapoport, Solomon Judah, 

196, 207, 216, 219, 225, 234, 

238, 280 8 . 

Raschkes Loeb, 278', 279". 
Rashi, 24, 70, 72, 160, 218, 233, 

258, 269". 

Reifmann, 233. 

Rembrandt, 248. 

Renan, 256. 

Rosh Hodesh, Money, 19. 

Rosh Yeshibah, 74, 77, 81. 

Rothschild, 56. 

Rudolf emperor of Germany, 

Saadya Gaon, 139, 233, 246, 

247, 269 a8 . 

Sadducee, the, 88, 89, 105, 231. 

Saertels, Moses, 24. 

Safra, Amora, 29 

Sainte Beuve, 181. 

Salanter, Rabbi Israel, 145- 


Samuel, amora, 43, 49, 50. 
Sassanids, the, 10. 
Scahger Joseph, 268'. 
Schechter Solomon, 104, 132, 

241, 251. 

Schidlow Nisan, 231. 
Schuck Moses, 253. 
Scripture, Lee also Bible, 6, 41, 

43, 45, 46, 59, 70, 71, 103, 

116, 126, 2 52, 289 
Sefardim, the, 64, 66 
Sefer Yezirah, the, 133 
Sepphons, 36. 
Seyneysis Henncus, a learned 

Capuchin, 37. 
Shakespeare, 116 
Shammai, 89, 118, 268" 271' 
Shapiro, Loeb of Kovno, 157, 

Shem, 45 



Shema, prayer, 11, 15, 29, 95. 
Shemayah, tanna, 48. 
Shenra R , 268". 
Shor, Abraham Hayyim, 267" 
Shulhan Aruk, the, 133, 141, 

204, 225. 
Sifra, 133. 
Sifre, the, 133. 
Sifre Zutta, 245. 
Simeon, son of Gamdiel, 51 
Simeon the Just, 148 
Simeon ben Shatah, 9, 272'*. 
Simlai, amora, 272 6 
Simon Mckilta of, 245, 28 1 8 
Sirkes, Joel, 67, 276*'. 
Socrates, 166 

Sofer, Abraham Samuel, 253 
Sofer, Moses, 235, 253. 
Solomon, father of the Gaon 

R Elijah, 127 

Solomon of Newstadt, 274" 
Sommor Samuel, 253 
Speyer school, 36 
Sura, 36, 49 
Szanto, 232 

Tacitus, 113 

Talmud, the, 11, 14, 25, 26, 28, 
29, 33, 37, 38, 39, 40, 45, 53, 
55, 59, 60, 63, 64, 65, 68, 70, 
71, 72, 73, 75, 76, 80, 81, 83, 
84, 101, 110, 114, 116, 120, 
127, 128, 129, 133, 134, 135, 
136, 137, 138, 139, 141, 143, 
149, 150, 156, 158, 159, 160, 
161, 187, 208, 211, 212, 214, 
215, 216, 221, 222, 223, 224, 

225, 226, 232, 233, 246, 247, 

254, 256. 
Talmud academy, the see also 

Yeshthab, 69 
Talmud Heder, the, 68. 
Talmud, Torah, the, 18, 65 
Tam, Rabbi Jacob, 67, 233 
Targum Aramaic, 45 
Tarphon, tanna, 56. 
Titus, 28. 

Torat Koliamim or Sifra, 227. 
Tosefta, the, 138, 213 1 
Trebitsch, Nahum, 224 
Treme, mother of the Gaon, 

Elijah, 127. 
Trier, Solomon, 202. 
Troyes, 36 

I'sha, 36 

\ espasian, 35. 
\ oltairc, 44 

\VechsIcr, 254 

Weiss, li>aac Hirsch, 217, 240 

\\el1hauscn, 258 

Wesrthcimcr, 228 

Wilhelrn von Humboldt, 239 

Wilna, 37 

Wilna Elijah, see Elijah Gaon, 

Worms, 36 

Za'ar Ba'ale Hayyim, 30 

Zechanah, 252 

Zedner, 1 1 3. 

Zohar, the, 133, 241 

Zundel, 149, 150, 151, 278,. 



Zunz, 12, 109, 139, 196, 216, 
219, 234, 255, 272'. 

Yafe Israel, 2733 

Yeshibah, pi Yeshibot, 7, 25, 

63, 65, 69, 70, 71, 72, 74, 77, 
84, 161, 162, 221, 222, 223, 
224, 225, 228, 235, 253. 

Yose ben Joeser, 268". 

Yosel, pupil of Iserlein, 75 


133 017